TAHLEQUAH – In the Feb. 22 Community Services meeting, Tribal Councilors addressed several topics including coronavirus relief funds, Indian Child Welfare and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

In January, the Cherokee Nation opened another Respond Recover Rebuild COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Program to allow CN citizens to apply up for up to $500 in aid.

Chief of Staff Todd Enlow said about 9,300 applications had been approved out of more than 25,000 applications and applicants should start seeing payments.

“They’ve marked about 9,300 of those applications as approved and it’s a two-step process,” Enlow said. “The first level marks it, reviews it, makes sure the address is deliverable, documents the information in the system, makes sure it’s a good application. Then it goes to level two which most of the management team inside Human Services. They’re just doing a second review just to make sure that everything’s OK.”

Enlow said payment processing is similar to the education and clothing assistance that was given out last year.

“If you’ll recall, we sent out $22 million in the first 24 hours and that was sent to all of their bank accounts,” he said. “So it puts the money into the citizens hands a little bit quicker.”

Councilor Mary Baker Shaw asked if at-large citizens were included in this round of emergency assistance.

“We stated that we would give first preference to those residing in the 14-county jurisdiction, and I think that with our allocated funds and the number of applications that we should be able to address some of the needs for the at-large residents as well,” Enlow said.

Those with concerns about their applications or with questions can call 918-453-5464.

In the ICW report, it listed 1,881 children needing assistance in December. Baker Shaw asked Human Services representative Jennifer Kirby if an ICW rep could be present at future meetings.

“I’m just concerned that when we have 1,881 children that needed assistance in December, I wish we were having Indian Child Welfare reporting to us,” Baker Shaw said. “I’m wanting someone to sit here and tell us how many of our children needed help, how many outside of jurisdiction needed help, what their problems are, what their needs are and how we can help.”

Councilor Wes Nofire added that there needs to be a procedure in place for parents, whose children have been taken out the home, on what steps they need to take to get their children back.

“I think that’s a very big issue. If the number one goal with our kids is reunification, how can we reunify them if the parent doesn’t know the procedures,” Nofire said.

Councilors decided that an ICW representative will be present at the next Community Services meeting to address any concerns.

Kirby provided 2020 numbers on LIHEAP participants.

Nearly 700 individuals were aided for electricity payments, 464 for natural gas payments, 623 for propane payments, 89 for wood and 10 for pellets.

“That kind of gives you an idea of where the majority of our percentage of our energy and what their source of energy is for heat,” Kirby said.

In other news, Community Services Executive Director Michael Lynn said the CN Department of Transportation is continuing forward on seeking a self-governance compact under the US Department of Transportation.

“We sent a letter to USDOT on Feb. 10, which was a letter of request for eligibility determination,” Lynn said. “We feel like we are eligible. We need that to tell us however and then we would be moving to a compact negotiation process with them. They do have about four months to respond to the letter.”