Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians (Michigan)
Posted: July 13, 2020
Sault Tribe clarifies COVID-19 Assistance Program
July 13, 2020


SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Board of Directors recently approved a direct services program to help Sault Tribe members. It will be funded with $3.5 million in Covid-19 CARES Act monies with an additional $1.5 million to be programmed to assist tribal fishers and tribal member owned small businesses affected by market interruption due to the pandemic.

While the remaining funds are earmarked to address the impact of the pandemic on tribal, enterprise and gaming operations, if the funds allocated for direct services are not sufficient, the tribal board may adjust the allocation to ensure tribal members needs are met.

On behalf of the Sault Tribe Board of Directors, Tribal Chairperson Aaron Payment reinforced that “the US Treasury guidelines do not allow for a direct per capita distribution” of Cares Act funds. The tribe has been expressly warned and the Legal Department has advised that any funds spent on a direct distribution not justified based on the impact of Covid19 is disallowed.

Payment said, “While I advocated for a share of the tribal Cares Act funds be based on our entire 44,000 Sault Tribe citizens, the funds we received were based only on the Indian Housing Block Grant statistics, which is approximately equal to our service area population of 16,000 or about one-third of our membership.”

The COVID019 Assistance Program is consistent with the Tribal Strategic Plan approved by the Sault Tribe Board of Directors, which at this time focuses on the service area population only.

In addition to the $5 million in direct funding to benefit Sault Tribe members, consistent with the Tribal Strategic Plan, the tribe has earmarked or appropriated the remaining funds to relieve the impact of COVID-19, including capital improvements to move to a touchless environment and to install additional safety measures and equipment like new state-of-the-art air filtration systems in all tribal, enterprise and casino facilities across the seven-county service area.

During the shutdown, the Sault Tribe governmental, enterprise and casino operations fully compensated team member employees without the benefit of receiving casino revenues and vastly reduced enterprise revenues. Federal relief dollars allow for full payment of Health and Law Enforcement essential staff payroll directly as essential personnel while supporting the overall economic loss of the tribe. None of the funds were used for debt retirement, and, according to US Department of Treasury guidance, can only be used to address the direct impact of the pandemic.

“Our priority is to meet the needs of the neediest and most impacted,” Payment said. “Our board regrets having to limit benefits to the tribal strategic plan. Long-term economic development plans including a new marijuana development and downstate gaming operations will yield revenues at multiples greater than our current revenues. At that point, the tribe fully intends to modify our long-term strategic plan to include an expansion of services for all members no matter where they reside.”

Tribal members interested in applying can do so now by emailing or by calling the following offices. Our team will assist you in understanding the full range of benefits for which you may qualify.

ACFS toll free number, 1-800-726-0093;
Viola Neadow, Manistique ACFS, 906-341-6993;
Heidi Nesberg, Munising ACFS, 906-387-3906;
Angie Gillmore, St. Ignace ACFS, 906-643-8689;
Megan Miller, Sault Ste. Marie ACFS, 906-632-5250;
Maggie Gaus, Sault Ste. Marie ACFS, 906-632-5250.


Tribal members can also reach out to any one of the following tribal membership liaisons toll free at 800-793-0660 or directly by calling:

Sheila Berger, 906-635-6050;
Clarence Hudak, 906-430-2004;
Mary Jenerou, 906-450-7011.
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