It can happen to anyone, with two separate bills coming due at the same time or an unexpected appliance failure at home. These expensive fixes can be a mere annoyance for those with savings to dip into, but can border on a catastrophe for those living paycheck to paycheck. This isn’t the end of the road though.

Short term assistance is available through organizations like the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s 477, or employment and training, program. Tribal member Margaret Zientek, assistant director for the department, spoke with the Hownikan about federal funds used to assist Native Americans who find themselves in these situations.

What do these funds, called Community Service Block Grants, actually do?

“They address or lessen the effects on poverty stricken Native American households in regards to health and safety needs. The funds come from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families and essentially fill the gap when a family has no other resource. CSBGs address the critical needs of a poverty stricken family that affect the health and safety of the household.”

How does the Employment and Training Department determine who qualifies for CSBG funds?

“We gather information on residency, income, tribal identification, Social Security cards and other documents to determine if qualifications are met. At least one person in household must be a member of a federally recognized tribe. Far from the unregulated handouts that some government assistance critics stereotype such services as, our staff ensure a number of Tribal, state and federal qualifiers are met before assistance is distributed.

“For example, a household of two, with combined income less than $26,149 is eligible for this program. For a household of four, $32,302 is the maximum. All funds distributed are contingent upon a fully completed application.”

What does someone in need of CSBG funds need to do to apply for assistance?

“First, contact CPN Employment and Training at 405-598-0797 or come by our office at 300 E. Walnut, Tecumseh, Okla. Our staff can evaluate each individual case and determine if these are the best avenues to assist their situations.

“The applying household must meet income guidelines and reside within the department’s service areas of Pottawatomie, Lincoln, Payne and Cleveland counties as well as areas east of Post Road in Oklahoma County. The household may receive CSBG only once in a 12 month period and must have exhausted other resources such as LIHEAP.”

What are some common scenarios CSBG funds are used for?

“Say for instance, a mom and dad with five kids are struggling to keep all the utilities on, rent paid and food on the table. Then their refrigerator goes out but the repairman says it is not worth repairing and that forces them to skip paying a certain utility bill to buy a new one.

“Or what if an extended cold weather snap increased the heating bill, but the family car was damaged when it ran off an icy road, again forcing a decision on which bill to pay?

“What do these low income families do? They contact us for help. The department can administer CSBG funds to eligible applicants, many of whom share stories like this. Assistance isn’t solely relegated to financial support for utilities, with employment and training also providing assistance with repairing or replacing critical appliances such as a heat and air unit, refrigerator or water heater. Other assistance may be used to address rent or similar payment.”

If you or someone you know may be in need of CSBG assistance or any of the other programs the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Employment and Training Department oversees, please visit or call 405-598-0797.