Indian beneficiaries in Oklahoma demand release of Cobell settlement funds at this protest last year. Photo from Katherine Ware-Perosi / Change.Org
Indian beneficiaries probably won't be seeing the final payment from the $3.4 billion Cobell trust fund settlement for a couple more months.
In May, a federal judge approved distribution of the remaining funds while appeals from people who believe they are eligible are still being processed. The ruling gave hope to hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries who were originally told to expect a check around Christmas in 2013.
The payments, however, depend on calculations being made at the Interior Department.
Without that information, the Garden City Group -- the firm that was appointed by the court to administer the settlement -- can't mail out checks.
"DOI's calculations depend on information only available to DOI," Jennifer Keough, the chief operating officer at the Garden City Group, told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee this afternoon.
"Once those final numbers are provided to us and approved by the court, Garden City stands ready to issue to begin the process of issuing payments to the trust administration class," Keough added.
Michael Connor, the second-in-command at the Interior Department, acknowledged that work was continuing on those calculations. However, he would only say that it would be completed in "early fall."
But then he said it was the Cobell plaintiffs who asked DOI to do some "verification" of information. No one from the Cobell team appeared at the hearing.
The remainder of the hearing focused on the
Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations. The settlement authorized $1.9 billion for DOI to acquire fractionated interests from willing sellers.
Since December, DOI has paid $72 million to landowners. More than 203,000 acres have been returned to tribes as a result of the program.
The hearing lasted about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Audio can be found on the Indianz.Com SoundCloud.
Hearing on "Improving the Trust System: Continuing Oversight of the Department
of the Interior's Land Buy-Back Program" (July 16, 2014)
Garden City Group
executive to testify at SCIA's Cobell hearing (7/15)
ICT interview with Sen.
Walsh about delayed Cobell payments (06/18)
Elmeretta Blackbird: End
delay in Cobell settlement payment (06/12)
Cobell attorneys schedule meetings with
beneficiaries in Alaska (6/9)
Sen. Tester calls for speedy
distribution of Cobell settlement (06/05)
Cobell settlement checks expected within next three
Judge approves distribution
of second Cobell settlement check (5/30)
Cobell team to meet with beneficiaries in Oklahoma
next week (5/30)
Tex Hall: Distribute minimum
payments from Cobell settlement (05/19)
Long-delayed Cobell payments
range from $850 to nearly $10M (05/19)
Native Sun News: Cobell
checks could be delayed to December (05/14)
Cobell attorneys provide
update on settlement amid complaints (05/13)
Indian beneficiaries demand release of Cobell
settlement fund (5/12)
Jay Daniels: Cobell
settlement was flawed from beginning (04/18)
administrator responds to payment delay (04/16)
Letter from Cobell attorneys
on second settlement payment (04/16)
Lawmakers question delay in
payments from Cobell settlement (04/03)