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Disbursement of billions in federal coronavirus relief money begins for tribes

U.S. Treasury building in Washington (Treasury photo).

Nearly $5 billion from the Coronavirus Relief Fund is being dispersed to Native American tribes.

U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced details of the distributions in a joint statement May 5, the same day the departments said the payments will start to be released to tribes.

 â€œOur approach is based on the fair balancing of tribal needs,” Mnuchin said.

The $4.8 billion being released is based on population data through the Indian Housing Block Grant. It represents more than half of the portion of the original $8 billion designated for tribes in the CARES Act. The remaining portion – earmarked for tribes based on employment numbers in tribes and tribal-owned entities as well as expenditure data – is slated to be released at a date that has not been announced.  

According to the Treasury and Interior departments, details of the allocation are:   

  • Distribute 60 percent of the $8 billion to Tribes based on population data used in the distribution of the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG), subject to a floor of $100,000.  This data is based on U.S. Census figures and is already familiar to Tribal governments. 
  • Distribute the remaining 40 percent of the $8 billion based on the total number of persons employed by the Indian tribe and any tribally-owned entity, and further data to be collected related to the amount of higher expenses faced by the tribe in the fight against COVID-19. 
  • Payment to tribes will begin [May 5] based on the population allocation, and will take place over several banking days.  Amounts calculated for Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act regional and village corporations will be held back until pending litigation relating to their eligibility is resolved. 
  • Payments to tribes based on employment and expenditure data will be made at a later date.  Treasury will work with tribes to confirm employment numbers and seek additional information regarding higher expenses due to the public health emergency.
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