|President Barack Obama today announced final approval of the $3.4 billion Cobell trust fund settlement.
The settlement became final on November 24, following an appeal process that went before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Payments from the $1.5 billion portion of the settlement can now go out to hundreds of thousands of Indian beneficiaries.
"I welcome the final approval of the Cobell settlement agreement, clearing the way for reconciliation between the trust beneficiaries and the federal government," President Obama said in a statement. "While Elouise Cobell, the named plaintiff in this case is no longer with us, her legacy will be a renewed commitment to our trust relationship with Indian Country."
"I thank her for her honorable work, and also want to thank the leaders at the Departments of the Interior, Justice and Treasury who helped reach this conclusion," Obama added.
In a press release, the Interior Department said the $1.5 billion will be transferred to JP Morgan Chase, a bank that was approved by the court through the settlement process. Payments to individual beneficiaries will be handled by GCG Inc., the designated claims administrator.
“With the settlement now final, we can put years of discord behind us and start a new chapter in our nation-to-nation relationship,” said Secretary Ken Salazar. “Today marks another historic step forward in President Obama’s agenda of reconciliation and empowerment for Indian Country and begins a new era of trust administration.”
The $1.5 billion will be distributed to account holders based on two classes. Most beneficiaries will get $1,000 to settle historical accounting claims plus another $800 to address trust administration claims.
Some beneficiaries will receive additional funds for administration claims. The
amount is based on the level of
activity in a person's trust fund account.
The $1,000 historical accounting payment will be going out first so beneficiaries can expect money in time for the holiday season.
“We will continue to work with GCG to ensure it has the information it needs to make expeditious and accurate payments,” said deputy Interior secretary David Hayes.
The trust administration payments will come at a later stage.
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