- By Levi Rickert
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Treasury on Friday reversed the distribution methodology for $8 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) that was put in place during the Trump administration.
Friday’s announcement could lead to settling a lawsuit filed by the Shawnee Tribe in June 2020 that disputed the Treasury Department's methodology of using the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) program to determine population. While the announcement did not specifically name the Shawnee Tribe in its reversal, it did mention the lawsuit that is still pending. Two other tribes are part of the same legal action, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and the Miccosukee Tribe, with the Shawnee Tribe.
Shawnee Tribe Chairman Ben Barnes told Native News Online on Saturday he has not spoken to the Treasury Department about the contents of the announcement released on Friday.
"Since I just found out of this today, I have not been able to discuss the matter with all concerned parties," Barnes said. "Our case is not resolved, and we fully intend to litigate the merits of our claims. We will continue to seek full remedy to ensure that the Shawnee Tribe and her people receive the funds that we are fairly entitled," Barnes continued.
Barnes said the Shawnee Tribe will have more comments once there are additional conversations internally with its legal team.
Other tribes also claimed in lawsuist that the Treasury's formula for calculation was flawed because some tribes had not received federal funding through the program. Therefore, their populations were counted as zero.
In the case of the Shawnee Tribe, its population is over 3,000 tribal citizens. The tribe received $100,000 — the minimum relief funding for tribes — versus the $6 million it would have received based on its official enrollment.
In all 25 tribes had their population listed as zero using IHBG numbers and many others were undercounted and were therefore given reduced CARES Act funds.
After President Biden assumed the presidency and a new Treasury secretary was sworn in, the Treasury Dept. began consulting with tribal nations to determine the funding methodologies for funds designated to tribes from funds available from the American Rescue Plan that was signed into law in March 2021.
However, during the tribal consultation process, several tribes voiced their concerns about moving forward without addressing the lingering issue presented in several lawsuits still pending in the federal court system.
The Shawnee Tribe was one such tribe.
According to Friday’s announcement, the Treasury Dept. will reallocate CARES Act funds to certain tribes.
“Treasury will determine the set of Tribes for which Treasury will provide an additional payment by calculating each Tribe’s ratio of IHBG formula area population to enrollment and then subtracting that ratio from 1. This is the Tribe’s population-to-enrollment ratio. The top 15 percent of Tribes as ranked by this ratio (i.e., the 85th percentile) will be eligible for an additional payment,” the announcement states.
More Stories Like ThisNative News Weekly (10/24/2021): D.C. Briefs
GOOD MEDICINE: Fighting COVID with traditional healing and Western medicine
First Lady Jill Biden Visits Saginaw Chippewa
Wes Studi’s Mother, Maggie Studie, Passes Away at 92
Teacher Who Did a Poor Job of “Playing Indian” in Video that Went Viral is Placed on Leave
Native Perspective. Native Voices. Native News.
We launched Native News Online because the mainstream media often overlooks news that is important is Native people. We believe that everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities. That's why the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers. We hope you'll consider making a donation to support our efforts so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.