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WASHINGTON — A group of six tribes from three states on Monday filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction to block the Treasury Dept. from distributing federal relief funds to Alaska Native Corporations. 

In a filing with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the tribes asked the court to exclude Alaska Native regional corporations and Alaska Native village corporations from the allocation of more $8 billion available to tribes under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The lawsuit asks that the court direct Secretary Treasury Steven Mnuchin to disburse the funds only to federally recognized Tribal governments no later than April 26.  

The six federally recognized tribes in the lawsuit — three from Alaska, two from Washington and one from Maine — say allocating funds to Alaska corporations would reduce funds available to federally recognized tribal governments at a time when they desperately need the funding to provide essential governmental services and to safeguard the public health and welfare in their communities. 

In the filing, the tribes say that including the ANCs would reduce funding available to federally recognized tribal governments by 30 percent or more, depending on the formula used to allocate the relief funds. That could translate into a reduction of $4 million or more per tribe, according to the court filing. 

A hearing on the motion has been proposed for the afternoon of Thursday, April 23, according to court documents. 

The tribes that filed the lawsuits are the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and Tulalip Tribes from the state of Washington, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians from Maine and three tribes from Alaska:  the Akiak Native Community, the Asa’carsarmiut Tribe, and the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island. Collectively, the six tribes represent about 10,000 tribal members.   

Native News Online reached out to the Department of Treasury and the Department of Justice for comment, but has not received a reply.  This story will be updated with any comments from the federal government.

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