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TULSA, Okla. — The Shawnee Tribe filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday, alleging that the Trump administration “grossly undercounted” the tribe’s enrolled population, costing the tribe nearly $6 million in relief funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma claims the U.S. Treasury Department disregarded the tribe’s population data and instead used HUD Indian Housing Block Grant data that doesn’t count tribal members who live off the reservation. 

Although HUD maintains enrollment population data for tribes, it is for the sole purpose of calculation and distributing HUD funds, which the Shawnee Tribe does not receive, according to the filing. 

As a result, the Treasury’s data “grossly undercounted The Shawnee Tribe’s total enrolled population by nearly 3,000 members, or approximately 98 percent, assuming the best case scenario that it accounted for at least 37 members,” the filing states.  

The tribe received $100,000 — the minimum relief funding for tribes — versus the $6 million it would have received based on its official enrollment.    

“Despite having three separate reliable sources to The Shawnee Tribes’ population data – one of which was data submitted directly by The Shawnee Tribe’s government at the Treasury’s request – the Treasury issued funds based upon the incomplete and unreliable IHBG Metric population data reporting zero enrolled tribal members, which was arbitrary and capricious,” the filing states.  

Under the IHBG race-based data, 25 tribal governments are listed as having a population of zero, which the Shawnee Tribe calls “a practical impossibility.”

The lawsuit asks the court to enjoin Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin from distributing the $679 million in remaining CARES Act funding until the situation can be resolved.

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