The $8 billion tribal relief fund will not last long. More than 600 tribes, corporations, and even nonprofit organizations registered last week with the Treasury Department documenting what’s needed to at least partly mitigate the impact of the coronavirus.
There are a lot of questions about the disbursement of an $8 billion fund by the federal government to tribes and Alaska Native corporations.
This is Trahant Reports.
And based on the leaking of sensitive information, it’s clear the pool will be far short of what’s needed, likely less than ten percent.
There is also no clear indication from the Trump administration about the process.
Will the release of the funds be public? What formula will be used, population, or land base, or employees? Or all three?
And will even the formula be a public document?
These questions are punctuated by the chaos of an $8 billion disbursement that could happen as soon as Tuesday with a completion date of April 26.
Several tribes — including two in Alaska — have sued the Treasury Department over the issue of money directed to Alaska Native Corporations.
The lawsuit says “COVID-19 is causing devastating harm in Indian country” and that Congress recognized the unique hardships on tribal governments.
The Interior Department said Alaska Native corporations are eligible for the funding, pointing to a definition that includes them as an “Indian Tribe” in the Indian Self Determination Act.
And most of the tribes arguing against funding Alaska Native corporations argue that money should be used to to support governments with a political relationship with the United States.
The Aleut Community of St. Paul Island says there is a middle ground. “A very workable solution to controversy (is) the authorization by Alaska’s federally recognized tribes for tribal organizations/consortia to receive funding on their behalf, if they so choose,” wrote Amos T. Philemonoff, Sr. in a letter to the Treasury Secretary.
Philemonoff makes the case to let the money flow up, not down.
However in an op-ed published in Indian Country Today four leaders of Alaska Native corporations had their own take. “The law is clear. Our legal mandate as Alaska Native corporations is to support our Alaska Native communities and shareholders economically, culturally and socially,” they wrote.
The federal court, like the spending program itself, is on a tight deadline. Once the money begins to flow any legal challenge could be irreversible.