TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation has launched an online portal for qualifying Cherokee elders age 62 and older to apply for COVID-19 relief assistance.
As part of the Cherokee Nation Respond, Recover and Rebuild spending plan, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. recently announced the $45 million elder assistance initiative that will help Cherokee elders and those in need with costs related to COVID-19 relief, including food security and utility expenses.
“At Cherokee Nation, putting elders first is simply our way of life. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit our communities in March, we have supplied more than 73,000 Cherokee elders and families with food as part of the largest emergency food distribution program in Cherokee history,” said Chief Hoskin. “Now, with new federal dollars in our COVID-19 Respond, Recover and Rebuild spending plan, we can do even more to help our elders during these uncertain times. This $45 million will not only ensure critical tribal services are able to avoid budget cuts to elder programs, but it will greatly expand what we can do for our elders for the rest of the calendar year.”
As part of the elder initiative, the tribe is providing $1,200 in utility bill assistance to low-income Cherokee elders living within the Cherokee Nation reservation boundaries. The Elder Utility Assistance program will increase the traditional elder utility payment known as the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help elders focus their fixed income on other needs. The eligibility and benefit level for the tribe’s regular LIHEAP is unchanged for other citizens.
Cherokee Nation is also offering the Elder Safety Assistance program, a $400 direct economic-assistance stipend to any Cherokee elder age 62 or older, regardless of income level and regardless of where they live.
Eligible Cherokee elders can sign up for the Elder Utility Assistance and Elder Safety Assistance programs on the Cherokee Nation website at www.cherokee.org under the Respond, Recover and Rebuild Elder Assistance link.
“Although most of our Human Services programs are often limited to Cherokee citizens living in our reservation boundaries and may be based on income, we know Cherokee elders all across the world have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “That’s why we’ve committed to the $400 stipend and making sure it is available regardless of where Cherokee elders live. Together, we hope these two initiatives will make recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact just a little easier and less burdensome during these difficult times.”
Cherokee Nation Human Services department is committing other funds in the plan to address emergency elder needs relating to housing, food and a variety of emergency needs for Cherokees of any age who are experiencing extreme economic hardships related to COVID-19. The department will partner with the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation and the tribe’s Career Services Department to meet as many needs as possible through the end of the calendar year.
Applications for the Cherokee Elder Safety Assistance and Elder Utility Assistance programs must be received before 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 28.
Those who need assistance with the online application process or who need information on other Human Services programs can call 918-453-5464.
Cherokee Nation is also planning a series of community visits so Cherokee elders who do not have access to the online application can meet with tribal staff in a drive-through event to enroll in the program. Dates of the initial drive-through events include the following:
- Wednesday, Aug. 12, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Stilwell the CNI building (former Walmart building), 320 W. Locust St.
- Thursday, Aug. 13, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Vinita at Buffington Heights, 900 McNelis Ave.
- Monday, Aug. 17, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Tahlequah at the former Cherokee Casino-Tahlequah parking lot
- Tuesday, Aug. 18, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Warner at the Warner Event Center, 1301 North State Highway 64
- Wednesday, Aug. 19, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Ochelata at the Ochelata Community Building parking lot, 395400 W. 2900 Road
- Thursday, Aug. 20, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Sallisaw at Carl Albert State College, 1601 S. Opdyke Road
- Friday, Aug. 21, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Pryor at the former Homeland building, 422 E. Graham Ave.
- Monday, Aug. 24, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Jay at Comfort Closets, 419 S. 7th St.
- Tuesday, Aug. 25, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Kansas next to the Kansas High School dome, 700 Woods Ave.
- Wednesday, Aug. 26, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Hulbert at the Hulbert City Park
Additional dates, times and locations may be scheduled.