Indianz.Com Video: '8 billion dollars for our tribal governments': #COVID19 and Indian Country

Native Sun News Today: Tribes obtain another court order for delayed pandemic relief

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tribal governments obtained a federal court order forcing the U.S. Treasury Department to announce the release June 17 of the last of the belated $4.8 billion initially due them for pandemic relief under the CARES Act.

The order, dated June 15, responded to Treasury’s statement three days earlier that it would withhold $679 million of that as insurance against the Prairie Band Potawatomi tribal government’s court claim that it was underfunded in its CARES Act allocation.

“The court acknowledges the (Treasury) Secretary’s efforts to date to distribute more than 90 percent of the $8 billion appropriated by Congress, and to do so in a fair and equitable manner,” District of Columbia U.S. Judge Ahmit P. Mehta said.

“But the Secretary’s withholding of $679 million ‘to resolve any potentially adverse decision in litigation’ simply cannot be justified 50 days beyond the congressional deadline—marking over twice as long as Congress intended for distribution of all CARES Act funds,” Mehta’s opinion states.

Congress appropriated the $8 billion for tribal governments in the CARES, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law on March 27. Its total $150 billion also provided direct payments to help state, territorial, and local governments with Covid-19 related expenses expected through December 30, 2020.

While the other governments have been enjoying their benefits since the Congressionally mandated April 27 deadline for Treasury’s disbursal, tribes have taken department Secretary Steven Mnuchin to task in a number of court cases that have delayed their share.

The first was contesting his decision to include Alaska Native Corporations, as if they were tribes, in the distribution of the money. It argues the ANCs are for-profit and should not get a cut.

Mnuchin said the decision was based on the advice from U.S. Interior Department Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney, an Alaskan Native, to allocate $3-4 billion, about half, of the tribal governments budget to the ANCs.

Alaskan Natives have a population of approximately 106,660, which is only 1.5 percent of the more than 6.7 million Native Americans from 574 federally recognized tribes in the United States.

As a former employee and lobbyist of the largest of the 13 ANCs, a current stockholder and spouse of an ANC lobbyist, Sweeney nonetheless has denied wrongdoing while lawmakers on Capitol Hill spur investigation into her activities.

The immediate results of the lawsuit, filed by dozens of tribes, were an injunction temporarily prohibiting release of funding to ANCs and Treasury’s failure to disburse money to any of the tribes.

So, on April 30, three days after the deadline for its delivery, another group of tribes sued Mnuchin again to obtain it. To that they were treated with the response that only 60 percent, or $4.8 billion, would be disbursed until after the court decides if the ANCs are eligible for the other 40 percent, or $3.2 billion, which Treasury will hold until then.

At the time, Rosebud Sioux Tribal President Rodney Bordeaux criticized the Trump Administration for using a formula based on the decennial census and employment statistics to determine the amount each tribe should receive. He argued the sum should be based on the tribes’ enrollment statistics.


Support Native media!

Find news, editorial and more on Native Sun News Today.

Contact Talli Nauman at

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

Join the Conversation
Trending in News
More Headlines