Judge Denies Tribe’s Bid to Halt & Recalculate CARES Fund Allocations

The U.S. Department of Treasury plans to start disbursing the remaining $3.2 billion in CARES Title V funds to Tribes no later than Monday. (Flickr CC/Paul Savala)

The population metric used to calculate the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s CARES funding shortchanged the Tribe $7.65 million. The Indian Housing Block Grant data showed the Tribe had 883 citizens versus its actual enrollment figure of more than 4,840. HUD doesn’t distinguish between Tribal members who live on and off reservations. Meanwhile, several other Tribes had their population listed as zero, and thus received the minimum funding, $100,000. 

READ MORE: Tribe Sues Treasury Over Use of ‘Highly Unreliable’ Metric to Allocate CARES Funding

But a D.C. federal judge determined Thursday that CARES funding for all of Indian Country shouldn’t be held up. U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta ruled against the Nation’s bid for the Department of Treasury to hold the remaining $3.2 billion of the total $8 billion in CARES relief for Tribes. The Prairie Band had argued that without halting the distribution of the remaining $3.2 billion, the pool of money would soon be “totally depleted.” 

Judge Mehta’s response acknowledged he did not have jurisdiction to hear the Tribe’s challenge. The CARES Act, Mehta wrote, “does not require the secretary to even consider population data, let alone population data of a particular kind.” 

Judge Mehta said it would be “patently unfair” to make other Tribal governments wait any longer to receive the remaining CARES Act funds. U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin is finally on the cusp of distributing those funds, Mehta added. Treasury is expected to start disbursing the remaining $3.2 billion in CARES Title V funds to Tribes no later than Monday.

Meanwhile, two amicus briefs filed separately by two groups of Tribes both insisted on the immediate disbursement of Title V funds. Tribal governments cannot afford to wait on the critically needed and long-delayed money, they stated. 

“Treasury has pursued a flawed allocation process to date that has predictably resulted in some Tribal governments receiving far too much funding and others far too little,” acknowledged the Gila River Indian Community, the Penobscot Nation, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in a brief. But any delay in relief would “harm hundreds of other Tribal governments,” the Tribes said.