UKB Housing reopens after being affected by federal shutdown
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
TAHLEQUAH - The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Housing Department is once more taking applications and providing services to tribal members after nearly three weeks of interruption.
“We’re thrilled that we can put our employees back to work serving our tribal members. Housing is one of the biggest priorities the tribe has, and these services are so needed,” said Nanci McCause, UKB Housing director.
The department originally announced via the UKB Facebook Page on Jan. 7 that it would be suspending its housing services “until further notice” due to “direct and indirect circumstances” including an “incomplete” internal tribal financial audit and the U.S. Government shutdown.
“We have the money available for us to use, but because our audit was not completed by June 2018 when it was supposed to be, we were placed on restricted status. This means that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has to approve everything we draw (down). With the shutdown, they’re just not there to approve it,” McCause previously stated.
The news of the Housing Department reopening comes after the Jan. 25 announcement that the U.S. Government would reopen for three weeks after being closed since Dec. 22, 2018.
During that time, officials hope a bipartisan effort can be made to determine how money should be allocated for border security and President Donald Trump’s Border Wall.
The temporary deal did not increase the $1.3 billion already set aside for current wall
maintenance and officials have until Feb. 15 to strike a new deal.
UKB Housing programs that were affected by the shutdown, including mortgage, rental and college housing assistance, are once more taking applications from tribal members.
During the shutdown, the department had been in stand-by mode and could only respond to emergency issues that arose with emergency funding already set aside.
“We’re going to double up as much as we can with our funding requests in case a deal isn’t reached by February 15,” said McCause. “We’re going to try to have to estimate out two to three weeks what we might need. We’ve got some contractors that got caught up in this that haven’t been paid, so we’ve got a pretty good idea of what we’re going to have to prioritize.”
Executive Director of Tribal Operations Sean Nordwall said that he would work with the department to help “anticipate” the tribe’s needs in the coming weeks.
“Hopefully the government doesn’t shut down again, but this time we’ll anticipate and plan better if they do. Hopefully they can come to an agreement during that time,” he said.
To ask about Housing Department services, tribal members can call the UKB main line at 918-871-2800 and ask to speak with a housing specialist.