While nearly 60 percent of the CARES Act’s $8 billion Tribal set aside has been disbursed based on population data (and, according to a Harvard study, possibly by faulty means), $3.2 billion remains in limbo.
The funds are held up in part due to challenges by Tribes in submitting the info to Treasury’s portal.
Among the challenges Tribes reported via email include: a storm in Alaska over the weekend that resulted in widespread power outages throughout the state; and the closure of offices as a result of COVID-19, which has made it difficult for Tribes to access financial statements and tax forms that are saved on office computers, Daniel Kowalski, the Counselor to Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, told a federal judge on May 26.
That $3.2 billion in CARES funding will be disseminated based on employment numbers and expenditures — determined by Tribes’ digital entries. The Department of Treasury has requested information such as employment data for both Tribal government and Tribal enterprises for calendar year 2019 along with fiscal year 2019 Tribal government expenditures.
The Treasury department previously slated a June 5 date for shipment of the $3.2 billion to Tribal governments. But given the May 26 deadline for Tribes was extended to May 29, that may kick back the disbursement timeline further. Treasury had said it’s seeking to balance the cumbersome process of data collection with Tribes’ immediate need for these funds during a global health emergency.
Tribes now have until 12:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time on Friday, May 29, 2020 to upload their data. Only applications completed through the electronic form will be accepted.
As Jonodev O. Chaudhuri, former National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) Chairman, recently told Native Business: “Given the dramatic need in Indian Country and the real lives that are being impacted, any delay by federal agencies in distributing funds that Congress set aside for Tribal Nations is extraordinarily concerning.”
Significance of Data
Moving forward, the value of accurate data collection in Indian Country cannot be overstated. “Collecting reliable data that accurately captures the economic activity of Tribal Nations is extraordinarily important, as the COVID crisis demonstrates,” Chaudhuri said. “When policymakers need to act swiftly, data always helps; data is always critical. Being able to accurately capture the positive benefits of Indian Country economic activity on both Tribal citizens and non-citizens should be a focus of attention for everybody who works in Indian Country economic development.”