BYLAS — The district of Bylas sits on the eastern side of the San Carlos Apache Reservation, approximately 35 miles from the rest of San Carlos. Employment opportunities in the area are far and few between.

Residents must travel great distances for jobs or to attend college classes. They also had to travel 35 miles to receive assistance from the Nnee Bich’o Nii Program; that is, until the Nnee Bich’o Nii Program opened an office in the Bylas district, full-time and fully staffed.

The office is located in the Wickiup Village, Suite D, and open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding all federal and tribal holidays.

Community members are able to go to the office to apply for cash assistance benefits, and Gerilynn Williams, employment and training counselor, is located in the office, on hand and ready to answer any questions the participants may have.

The Nnee Bich’o Nii Program or TANF (temporary assistance to needy families) provides more than just temporary cash assistance to needy families with dependent children. It provides program participants with an opportunity to become financially independent through education, training and employment. Lelani Olivar, quality assurance officer/office manager, encourages people with dependent children, with little or no income, to come to the Bylas office to apply for services and benefit from all the program has to offer.

The Nnee Bich’o Nii Program begins with education. If the participant does not have a high school diploma or G.E.D., they are encouraged to attend classes provided by the program. Transportation to and from the classes are also provided.

If the participants have a high school diploma or G.E.D., they are required to volunteer their services to gain work experience; often times, volunteering leads to a full-time position with the department at which they volunteered. While volunteering, the participants attend Job Readiness Classes where they learn about effective communication, problem solving, resume building and interview skills.

Another program offered by the Nnee Bich’o Nii is on-the-job training. The program last 90-days, providing an introduction to office work and construction work. These are paid positions funded by federal and state grants. The participants selected for this program receive an hourly wage of $10.50 per hour for office workers and $13 per hour for construction workers.

With all of the positive steps the Nnee Bich’o Nii Program has taken over the years, there is still a sad fact there are children who have been abandoned by their parent(s), to be raised by family members. The answer to this is the Kinship Program. It does not undo the harm caused by the child being left behind; however, the Kinship Program provides cash assistance to the family member to help provide for the child. It is very important to note that the family member must have legal custody of the child or children.

Ronnie Crowe, on-site investigator, is also housed at the Bylas office. It is his job to investigate any claims the counselors find suspicious. An example given would be a single mother applying for benefits when she does not have custody of her children. Violation of the Nnee Bich’o Nii Program policy could result in denial of services for three months for the first offense; six months for the second offense; one year for the third offense for any intentional (IPV).

Members of the Bylas District are strongly encouraged to visit the office and apply for the Nnee Bich’o Nii Program. The staff is there to help tribal members get an education or get a job, to help provide for family.

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