- By Native News Online Staff
WASHINGTON — U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta rejected the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s motion to block the Treasury Department from sending out the CARES Act relief until it takes a second look at the breakdown per tribe.
The Prairie Band argued yesterday afternoon during a hearing that the Treasury Department allocated $4.8 billion in funds in its first distribution round based on the Indian Housing Block Grant formula population, rather than enrollment numbers. The tribe maintains it was shorted close to $8 million because the Treasury Department paid the tribe an amount based on 883 tribal citizens, instead of its enrollment of over 4,500 citizens.
“Those numbers are right there and could have been used if they had problems with the data that the tribes were submitting,” Carol Heckman, a Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman attorney representing the Prairie Band attorney, said during the Thursday afternoon hearing.
Heckman argued that the Treasury’s formula did not take into consideration the Prairie Band’s tribal citizens who live away from the reservation located in Mayetta, Kansas.
“They are still enrolled members. They still get the benefits of enrolled membership, but they don’t happen to live right there. They still go back to the health clinics,” Heckman said.
On Thursday evening, Judge Mehta ruled against the motion that called for the court to hold off the disbursement of the second round of CARES Act funds by the Treasury Department, $3.2 billion-or 40 percent still owed to tribes-for 21 days.
In his ruling, the judge said the court lacked jurisdiction to determine the appropriateness of the Treasury’s formula. Further, the judge said it was not fair to other tribes in Indian Country to make other tribal governments wait any longer for the funds that are due to be distributed to tribes on April 26, 2020.
The ruling by Judge Mehta allowed the Treasury Department began its second round distribution to begin immediately. During yesterday’s hearing a Treasury Department attorney said the department could begin the distribution Friday, but no later than Monday, June 15.
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