OKEMAH, Oklahoma – Inside the Okemah Elderly Nutrition Center, the American Rescue Plan Act Direct Assistance Support Team helped Muscogee (Creek) citizens with application for the Direct Assistance program, Vaccine Incentive and NetSpend cards during a Community Outreach event on Nov. 4.
According to a Muscogee (Creek) citizen and Okemah Community member, Nancy Watson, there are many members in her community struggling with the process.
Watson claimed a meeting was held discussing the NetSpend cards prior to the application. Okfuskee District Representatives Travis Scott and Speaker Randall Hicks were in attendance listening to citizens’ concerns.
After the explaining how funds would be distributed on NetSpend cards, Watson said citizens’ response to the certain type of distribution was not one of satisfaction.
For Watson, the biggest concern is taking care of “her elders.”
“I am an elder,” Watson said. “So, the ones that are older than me, I try to help them.”
Watson took the time to read over the NetSpend guidelines and discovered things that worried her.
“It’s too difficult,” Watson said. “There’s too many fees associated with NetSpend and we aren’t getting our full amount.”
Muscogee (Creek) citizen and Okemah Community member Simian Lee agreed with Watson’s statement.
Lee claimed he had help in submitting his application on the first day and still had not heard anything from the tribe or NetSpend.
“That’s why I came here today,” Lee said. “I want to know where my money is.”
Watson and Lee were called to be helped by representatives on their particular issues and both were resolved quickly. Each of them had felt better with the process upon leaving, but still wish the Nation had decided to issue checks for Direct Assistance payments.
Even with the direct help of the APRA Support Team, those with complicated applications have run into barriers which could be turned in for further review.
Dustin Truce is a non-elder community member but did not have the same experience with the event as the elderly members. Truce did not have an issue with his application, but with his card.
Truce claimed he had received his card three days prior to the event and it had maintained a zero balance.
After talking with a representative, Truce said he still was not able to resolve the problem with the balance on the NetSpend card.
NetSpend had required Truce to provide identity documentation, which he claimed he did and got approval from the card company. However, the card still did not receive funding.
Truce said after talking with NetSpend, they sent him an email stating MCN had denied his application.
“I showed them (ARPA Rep.) the email from NetSpend where they claimed it was on them (MCN),” he said.
Truce stated he was not happy with his results of the event and is not sure what to do.
National Council Legislative Communications Specialist Richard Anderson has been attending these outreach events and gathering written statements from citizens regarding issues with the application or NetSpend process.
Anderson claimed the statements were gathered and given to Speaker Randall Hicks which are then turned into Principal Chief David Hill for further review.
Dozens of elderly citizens or other community members who attended the Okemah event were able to receive assistance with generally little to no trouble.
There are no further outreach events scheduled at this time beyond the event scheduled at the Glenpool Indian Community Center on Nov. 9 from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
For more information regarding ARPA funds and programs, call the hotline at: 918-549-2885.