Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > CARES Act Litigation
Posted: April 30, 2020

The E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse houses both the federal court for the District of Columbia and the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

On the eve of a critical deadline in the CARES Act lawsuit, an Alaska Native regional corporation is seeking to intervene in the case. Ahtna argues that its “interests are not adequately represented by any of the existing parties” as the fate of an $8 billion coronavirus relief fund hangs in the balance.

“In this case, neither the government nor the plaintiffs represent the interests of Ahtna,” a motion to intervene filed later in the day on April 30, 2020, reads. “Ahtna has a direct legal and economic interest in the relief funds at issue.”

The motion comes four days after a federal judge, through a preliminary injunction order, temporarily barred the Trump administration from distributing any of the $8 billion to Alaska Native corporations like Ahtna. It comes a day after a key official, in remarks first reported by Indianz.Com, indicated that the Department of the Treasury was making progress toward a decision about the fund.

“We believe we have determined a path forward while staying within the court’s order to not pay Alaska Native corporations,” Daniel Kowalski, who serves as Counselor to Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said on a conference call on Wednesday, Indianz.Com reported, based on remarks relayed by a participant.

Additionally, a new group of tribes filed a fourth CARES Act lawsuit on April 30. The plaintiffs in Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Mnuchin are:

  • Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (California)
  • Ak-Chin Indian Community (Arizona)
  • Northern Arapaho Tribe (Wyoming)
  • Cherokee Nation (Oklahoma)
  • Snoqualmie Tribe (Washington)
  • Yurok Tribe (California

The tribes are pushing Treasury to distribute the $8 billion as mandated by Congress. Under Title V of the CARES Act, the money was supposed to have gone out within 30 days, a deadline that passed at the start of the week.

“By failing to disburse the funds, Defendant is violating a clear, non-discretionary and mandatory duty to act as mandated by Congress through the CARES Act,” the 10-page complaint reads.

“The Defendant’s duty to disburse the funds within 30 days of enactment of the CARES Act is a plainly defined and peremptory duty,” it states in reference to Secretary Mnuchin.

“In light of the clear statutory mandate, Defendant’s inaction in failing to disburse the Title V funds amounts to inaction unlawfully withheld or unreasonable delayed,” it reads.

The new developments come a day before a joint status report is due to the judge assigned to the CARES Act lawsuit. Treasury has been directed to “update the court on any developments in the disbursement of Title V funds to federally recognized Indian tribes, as well as any funds withheld from ANCs pursuant to the court’s preliminary injunction order.”

The report is due sometime on Friday.

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