Attorneys for the Miccosukee Tribe and the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation expressed similar sentiments. The Miccosukees in Florida were also treated as having zero population by former Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, resulting in a shortfall of estimated $2 million, while the Kansas-based Prairie Band lost out on an additional $7.6 million because of Treasury’s bungling of the coronavirus relief fund for tribal governments. “We would encourage the court to keep this case going so that we can get it resolved it as soon and possible,” said George Abney, an attorney for the Miccosukee Tribe. But the federal government had little to offer in terms of resolution during the teleconference, which took place last Thursday, a day after Biden was sworn into office as the 46th president of the United States. That’s because Treasury hasn’t yet decided whether the three tribes should get more COVID-19 relief — or whether the new administration will continue to defend the position of the past. “Treasury will still need a little bit of time, in light of the transition, to determine what its position is going to be,” said Kuntal Cholera of the Department of Justice. “It will be a really delicate situation,” Cholera said of COVID-19 matters on incoming Secretary Yellen’s plate. Given the uncertainty, he said “it might make sense to halt what we do here,” especially since there’s an even bigger cloud hanging over the Biden bunch.
Shawnee Tribe v. US Treasury;— Chief Ben Barnes (@ChiefBarnes) June 22, 2020
Rep. Markwayne Mullin and 12 congressional leaders author a letter supporting tribal nations against faulty Treasury formulation. pic.twitter.com/djWspi1LIF
Despite the uncertainty, Mehta is intent on moving forward with the underfunding dispute, as the tribal plaintiffs requested. He ordered government attorneys to submit a status report by February 15, to be followed up by a hearing on February 17. The administrative record, meaning the documents that a federal agency utilized in arriving at its actions, is due February 18. For now, Mehta has issued a preliminary injunction in favor of the Shawnee Tribe. The order freezes $12 million in CARES Act funds, pending resolution of the case, whenever that may be. During the teleconference last week, Mehta said he is open to extending the order to include the Miccosukee Tribe and the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. He specifically asked them for the dollar amounts they are seeking, which could bring the total amount frozen to more than $21 million. Mehta acted after the D.C. Circuit, on January 7, ruled that the Shawnees were shortchanged when Treasury treated the tribe’s population as zero. As a result, the tribe only got $100,000 from the first round of COVID-19 payments. “While other tribes received millions, the U.S. Treasury Department flagrantly shortchanged the Shawnee Tribe from its fair share of the CARES Act coronavirus relief funds, causing hardship in our ability to fully care for our tribal citizens sadly affected by this deadly virus,” Chief Ben Barnes said after the ruling. The 15-page decision from the D.C. Circuit was unanimous but Judge Merrick Garland did not participate in the outcome. He has since been nominated to serve as Attorney General by President Biden, meaning he will be overseeing the Department of Justice’s litigation in the CARES Act cases. A confirmation hearing has not yet been scheduled. The Supreme Court case about COVID-19 funding for Alaska Native corporations is Mnuchin v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, No. 20-543, and Alaska Native Village Corporation Association v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, No. 20-544. Briefs on the merits have not been filed and oral arguments have not been scheduled. The high court’s current term ends in June, so a decision is expected before then. The U.S. Senate is slated to confirm Janet Yellen, a former chair of the Federal Reserve, as Secretary of the Treasury on Monday. She would be the first woman to lead the Department of the Treasury. A confirmation hearing has not been announced for Haaland to be Secretary of the Interior. Tribes and their advocates are anticipating action sometime in mid-February. As part of his push for COVID-19 relief and recovery, Biden is proposing another $20 billion for tribes. The money would have to clear Congress, where Democrats are in support of additional funding while Republicans are balking. Democrats are in control of the Senate in the 117th Congress — but just barely. The party holds 50 seats, with tie-breaking votes to be cast by Vice President Kamala Harris, in her role as president of the chamber. Democrats have kept their hold on the U.S. House of Representatives but lost seats in the November 2020 election.
It's the case that never ends. The nation's highest court has agreed to hear a bitter dispute over $534 million in #COVID19 relief going to Alaska Native corporations. This is the second Indian law case on the Supreme Court's docket. #CARESAct #Coronavirus #CoronavirusReliefFund pic.twitter.com/NegdEdyY4V— indianz.com (@indianz) January 8, 2021
Open Executive Session to Consider Favorably Reporting the Nomination of the Honorable Janet L. Yellen, to be Secretary of the Treasury (January 21, 2021)
Gaylord News: Muscogee Nation debuts new logo and seal in rebranding effort
Cronkite News: Alaska Native illustrator makes history with ‘Water Protectors’ book
Lakota player lands spot on professional football team
Native America Calling: Billions to the rescue
Lakota couple sues school district for hair-cutting incidents
NAFOA: 5 Things You Need to Know this Week
Chuck Hoskin: Cherokee Nation seeks to strengthen sovereignty
Native America Calling: Hope for clean water infrastructure
People’s World: Native people march for missing and murdered loved ones
Native America Calling: Has the pandemic forever changed dating?
Indian Country cheers nomination of Muscogee Nation citizen to federal bench
Cronkite News: Religious groups join fight to protect sacred Apache site
Gaylord News: Native-owned brewery overcomes challenges amid COVID-19
House Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States: Environmental Justice in Indigenous Communities