Treasury to Ship $3.2B to Tribes on June 5; Study Questions Handling of Tribal COVID-19 Funds

Treasury will disseminate the $3.2 billion it still owes Tribal governments under the CARES Act starting June 5, nearly six weeks past the original deadline. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta that the department requires several days to receive data submitted by Tribes and even more time to process the amounts before distributing the money by June 5.

Nearly 60 percent, or $4.8 billion, of the CARES Act’s $8 billion Tribal set aside has been disbursed thus far, based on population data. The remaining 40 percent, or $3.2 billion withheld, will be allocated based on employment numbers and expenditures — a more complicated method for calculating funding than by population. On May 14, Treasury published Guidance to Tribes for Completing Supplemental Request for Information, which outlines a framework for the additional data collection. Treasury’s requested information includes employment data for both Tribal government and Tribal enterprises for calendar year 2019 along with fiscal year 2019 Tribal government expenditures.

Mnuchin counselor Daniel Kowalski said Tribal information is due in the portal by midnight Alaska time on May 26. “Treasury balanced the potential burden of a relatively compressed time frame to respond against tribes’ immediate need for these funds during this public health emergency,” Kowalski said.

The department will review Tribal submissions and make determinations on funding amounts within seven business days, by June 4; Treasury will release payments “no later than the next business day.”

Study Dissects First Round of CARES Funding by Population Data

Prior to Treasury’s announcement about the June 5 scheduled release of the remaining 40 percent of the CARES Act’s $8 billion Tribal stabilization fund to Tribal governments, a study came out dissecting the department’s formula for distributing first-round CARES Act funds to Indian Country by population data. A team of researchers from Harvard, the University of Arizona and UCLA have found that the U.S. Department of Treasury has employed a population data series that produces arbitrary and capricious “over-” and “under-representations” of Tribes’ enrolled citizens. 

The 32-page study reveals that the first $4.8 billion of CARES’ $8 billion for Tribal governments — allocated across the nation’s 574 federally recognized Tribes in proportion to populations based on HUD data — is not based on definitive data. “Different tribal population data series are available, and different series give rise to very different allocations of CARES Act dollars,” the study states. 

Meanwhile, for a number of Tribes that don’t participate in HUD’s IHBG housing program, they are reported as having no population. That’s “materially inconsistent” with both US Census Department data and Tribes’ own data.

“The CARES Act dollars are specifically earmarked for tribal governments. Thus, the case is strong that Treasury should have used data on each tribe’s population of enrolled tribal citizens. These counts were requested by Treasury and submitted by tribes in mid-April but were not subsequently used by the Department to allocate the CARES Act funds. The resulting allocations demonstrably leave some tribes as ‘over-represented’ and some tribes as ‘under-represented,’” the study states.