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A Harvard University analysis of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) pandemic relief funding showed that 30 tribes received more than half the $20 billion set aside for tribes, according to a report in Tribal Business News

The study by scholars with the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (HPAIED) shows the distributions to more than 600 federally recognized tribes and tribal bands were vastly inequitable, largely because of formulaic choices made by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.  Tribes that were already wealthy, especially those with gaming, benefited due to inequitable Treasury Department formulas.

The Harvard Project team conducted the research using publicly available numbers on USAspending.gov, an open data source of federal spending information. The federal government uploaded complete and detailed tribal ARPA funding to the website on Oct. 6.

A dozen tribes each received  more than $200 million, according to the analysis, including three — Navajo Nation, Cherokee Nation and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma — that each received more than $1 billion. 

The top 12 tribal recipients received a total $7.95 billion, or approximately 40 percent of the $20 billion in ARPA funds available to tribes through the Treasury.

Eighteen more tribes received between $100 million and $200 million, meaning that a total of 30 tribes received approximately 51.6 percent of the total funds available for tribes under ARPA.

On the other end of the spectrum, 375 tribes and tribal entities received less than $10 million, and 28 received a minimum amount of $1 million, according to the Tribal Business News report.

The news of the funding inequities follows recent reports that tribes were alarmed by the Treasury's handling of ARPA funding. That spurred a group of U.S. senators to write to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, urging her to quickly establish an Office of Tribal Affairs.

“The recent tribal consultations and interactions between Treasury and tribal nations underscore the need for sufficient, dedicated, in-house expertise at Treasury on tribal policy matters,” the letter said. 


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