The Per Capita Office, established by Gila River Indian Community's (GRIC) Revenue Allocation Plan (RAP), has been tasked with the monumental undertaking of conducting Per Capita Outreach programs throughout every district, including the Urban Assistance Center, in accordance with
GRIC's initial per capita distribution slated for Nov. 2, 2009.
In preparation, the RAP team has called upon members of GRIC's Treasurer's Office, Finance Department and Enrollment Department to formulate the core structure from which the Per Capita Office will be established. In doing so, each of these departments is integral in contributing resources and information surrounding the outreach/intake programs and facilitating a smooth process by which Community members will apply for per capita distribution.
According to Ken Mason, Assistant Finance Director of Planning, "We've spent a lot of time and effort trying to figure out better mechanics, better procedures and processes for assisting members this time around to make sure that people get their money.
" Mason said the development of the Per Capita Office has been educational for the RAP team wherein they have had to draw upon the lessons learned from previous docket payments as well as insight they've gained from local tribes that have implemented per capita payments.
In contrast to docket payments, Mason noted an important difference in that the payout is for adult members but only to those who apply. Although all community members are entitled to receive per capita payments, they must apply for it initially, which entails that they only apply once.
"If it were a matter of simply distributing to all adult members then life would be less complicated on the front end because we wouldn't have an application process but on the back end we would run the risk of sending checks out to a lot of members whose addresses are old or unknown," Mason said. "So there is a benefit on the back end. There should be less clean up because the members need to come forward and apply according to the ordinance.
" Although many other tribes have implemented per capita distribution, Mason said that getting information from these tribes is often difficult, as many tribes remain guarded in these matters. Accordingly, GRIC's venture toward implementing per capita distribution, and establishing an office whose sole intent is administering per capita payments, is essentially an excursion into unmarked territory.
"The toughest hurdle is that there is no precedence and that we are developing a process that is completely new to all departments that are involved," said Lorinda Roessel, Financial Analyst of Trust Administration for the Per Capita Office.
The burden the Per Capita Office carries in being responsible to the Community is tremendous but the bottom line is simple. "We're responsible to make sure the per capita process works well, not only the payment aspect of it but also the trust aspect of it," Roessel said. "I think that our mission is to accurately and efficiently make per cap payments to the Community members.
" With the ambitious goal of processing as many applications as possible before the Sept. 15 application deadline, the Per Capita Office has taken their services on the road engaging in a four-week campaign spanning Districts 1 through 7 and including the Urban Assistance Center. An estimated 12,000 enrolled Community members above age 18, clearly denotes that the workload accompanying this task will be nothing short of exhausting.
Beginning with the Urban Assistance Center, located at 4520 N. Central Ave in Phoenix, Ariz., the Per Capita Office processed approximately 146 applications from both elderly and adult Community members.
Not knowing what to expect in terms of volume of applicants, Diane Daychild, Urban Center Coordinator, said the steady stream of urban members was a good sign that people are aware of the application intake schedule. "I'm satisfied with the outcome," she said. "We didn't really know. We were thinking that there would be a whole bunch. I'm sort of glad it's just a trickling at this point."
According to Daychild, the Urban Center has normally been placed last when it comes to outreach campaigns but this time the scenario was turned around. Being the first on the schedule, Daychild and the Per Capita Office were hard pressed to accommodate logistics surrounding Internet connectivity, office space, signage and the general coordination of staffing.
Unfortunately, there was no Internet connectivity on the 6th floor office space where the application intake was conducted. This posed a major problem in verifying the applicant's enrollment and processing applications. However through coordination with the Management Information Systems (MIS) Department, connectivity was provided through the use of broadband cards that worked sufficiently to keep the traffic flowing smoothly.
"We were able to do an hourly back up of the database at GRIC which was secured through a broadband virtual private connection (VPM)," said Darrin White, MIS Director. "The cooperation with all groups involved went very well."
Although the turnout could be considered slight, the Urban outreach brought in Community members who wouldn't normally attend a meeting held at a District service center. One such member, Ermalinda Zamora, D7, said that the application process went by fairly quick. "It's good, it goes by fast," she said from the 5th floor waiting area of the Phoenix Indian Center.
Zamora said she was satisfied with the communication between the Tribe and urban members especially with the Urban Assistance Center being in Phoenix. "You don't have to drive all the way out there, and sometimes some of us [urban members] don't have vehicles," she said of the long distances some members must travel to Sacaton or their District service centers.
One question Zamora did have concerned the amount of the per capita payments. She was surprised to learn that the payment was going to be a little over $200. "If we have more casinos than the other reservations why are we getting less and they're getting more?"
She quickly realized that though the money will be put to good use, it is not going to go very far for the single mother of five who is battling through the dour economic conditions.
Urban member, Mary Moreno's opinion of the Community's communication effort regarding per capita distribution was quite the contrary. "I think that they're slacking because we don't get information like we should like on a quarterly basis," Moreno said. "Let us know something. I get second hand news but nothing from the tribe directly."
Moreno had no idea about what she might be looking at in terms of a per capita distribution.
"I don't know the amount. I heard it from four different people that it was going to be a couple thousand, then three hundred. I heard it again as $1200," she said. "I'm not sure, I could be totally misinformed."
If any questions were left unanswered after the outreach conducted at the Urban Assistance Center, it wasn't on behalf of the Per Capita Office. Beyond verifying enrollment, processing applications and updating addresses, the staff was prepared to field questions such as those regarding payment dates, amounts and quarterly distributions.
"It's been a long time coming but I'm glad," Daychild said. "At least somebody is remembering that there is a large off reservation population that needs to be accommodated."
At press time, the Per Capita Office has conducted three application intake meetings encompassing the Urban Assistance Center, District 1 and District 2. The sum of these intake meetings has accumulated well over 800 applications.
With the application deadline of Sept. 15 moving closer, it is imperative that all Community members who want to receive per capita distribution, attend a District intake meeting or stop by the Governance Center to pick up an application in the lobby.
For further information, please contact the Per Capita Office at (520)562-5222 or toll free at 1-(866) 416-2618.