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V. Treasury Funds

Tribal Consultation Written Comments Received American Rescue Plan – Indian Affairs Appropriations

This is section 5 of 5 sections. Access the Full PDF Version of the Comment Compilation.

Comments in grey box formatting were received after the comment deadline.

Comments

Tribal Governments are the governing bodies of Federally Recognized Indian tribes. Treasury should distribute remaining CARES Act Tribal Governments CRF funds to Indian Tribes on the Secretary of the Interior’s list of federally-recognized Indian Tribes. The Trump Administration erroneously disregarded the requirement of Federal recognition in deciding to distribute CARES Act Tribal Government Coronavirus Relief Funds to Alaska Native Regional and Village Corporations (ANCs). ANCs are not recognized by the Secretary of the Interior as Indian Tribes or Tribal Governments, but rather 229 Alaska Native villages are Federally Recognized Indian Tribes. ANCs are state chartered shareholder corporations, and are not eligible for CARES Act Tribal Government CRF distributions. Tribal Government CRF distributions must be made to Federally Recognized Indian Tribes as required by the CARES Act. The Biden Administration must correct the Trump Administration error. Treasury must immediately distribute all remaining Tribal Government CRF monies to Federally Recognized Indian Tribes.  (01 – GPTCA)

With respect to factors to be considered in the final allocation of CRF funds, we ask the Treasury Department to prioritize four factors in the allocation formula for the remaining CRF funds:

  • Tribal Population = Tribal Enrollment. Tribal membership is tribal citizenship—the self-governing political status of our Native People. Tribal members are enrolled in our Tribal Government to reflect their status as voting members of our Tribal Government Polity, our Indian Tribe. Our Tribal Governments track changes in Tribal enrollment, and tribal enrollment records are the most up-to-date and accurate records of Tribal population. In general, Tribal enrollment lists are comprehensive lists of all Tribal citizens enrolled in each Indian Tribe. Tribal enrollment data can be obtained from, and verified by, the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In contrast, the Census Bureau tracks the racial category of Native Americans, which is based upon self-identification and does not reflect the verified political status of tribal membership in an Indian tribe. Due to the Census Bureau’s failure to mail initial enumeration forms to P.O. Boxes, which are very common in rural Indian country, and other factors, the Census has turned rural Indian Country into Hard-to-Count areas. In the Great Plains, our Indian nations and tribes are typically undercounted in the Census. The Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) records are derivative of the Census enumeration and are not reflective of tribal membership. The Treasury should not use IHBG population area formulas, since they rely on Census Bureau data, without any “boost” for HTC census tracts and without regard to Tribal enrollment data, and since they use Tribal Statistical Areas, not Indian country land bases. Accordingly, IHBG population numbers are flawed and Treasury should not use IHBG numbers. Treasury should use Tribal Enrollment.
  • (2) Tribal Lands, Measured by Total Indian Country, Not Tribal Statistical Areas. Treasury should use Tribal Lands as an additional CRF allocation, including reservation lands, off-reservation trust lands, and dependent Indian communities, as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1151, Indian Country. For RST, the Rosebud Sioux Reservation is the proper measure of Tribal Lands because our Tribal Government service area extends throughout our 1889 Reservation. Treasury should not use the flawed Tribal Statistical Areas, which do not reflect Tribal Government jurisdiction. The size of an Indian Tribe’s land base is directly related to its expenditures on the COVID-19 public health emergency, since transportation costs and the costs of providing remote health care and emergency housing assistance, food, and supportive services in disbursed, rural areas are greater than in more densely populated areas.
  • (3) Tribal Economic Need, as measured by the Percent of Tribal Households in Poverty. The CDC has recognized that economic factors, including poverty, unemployment, low educational opportunity, poor health care, and overcrowded housing, which are endemic in tribal populations in low income areas result in pre-existing health conditions that make Native Americans more susceptible to the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Tribes with high poverty rates have had to address these factors in order to respond effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has increased expenditures. Accordingly, Treasury should use as a Tribal Government CRF allocation factor the relative economic hardship of each Indian Tribe, measured by the poverty rate of persons living on the Indian reservation or within the Indian country of each Tribe, based on the most recent year for which such data are available from the American Community Survey and the Census.
  • (4) Tribal Employees. Tribal Governments must also provide services to Tribal employees, which may include unemployment benefits, health care, housing, nutrition services and financial assistance during the COVID-19 National Public Health Emergency and Economic Crisis. Accordingly, Treasury should consider the number of Tribal Employees in the distribution of CRF Funds to Tribal Governments. Treasury may rely on numbers previously provided because Congress intended these funds to be distributed in 2020.
  • Treasury should distribute remaining CARES Act Tribal Government Coronavirus Relief Funds among Federally Recognized Indian Tribes according to Tribal population (measured by Tribal Enrollment), Tribal Lands (as measured by Indian Country), Poverty or Economic Disadvantage, and Tribal Employment.
  • As initially directed by Congress, Tribal Government CRF monies from the CARES Act are for the most part expended. Treasury can use the tribal enrollment data previously supplied by Indian tribes in 2020. To expedite the process, Treasury should rely on existing Tribal Government expenditure data supplied by Indian Tribes in 2020.
  • (See also NCAI Comments attached to Comments) (01-GPTCA)

The distribution formula should more accurately reflect the actual impact ofCOVID-19 by considering the number of employees and economic factors in addition to population size and should allow tribes to self-certify their populations rather than relying on any outside source; Santo Domingo Pueblo is appreciative of Treasury and Interior's intent to facilitate rapid of deployment of CARES Act resources to tribal nations using existing funding mechanisms, processes, agreements, and partnerships. However, pursuant to the distribution methodology chosen by Treasury under the CARES Act, some tribal governments received either an improper allocation or no allocation at all due to the use inappropriate population data based on participation in HUD's Indian Housing Block Grant program. We ask that Interior advocate and Treasury allow and distribute incoming funds as soon as possible in consultation with Tribes  to accurately account for each Tribe's unique economic situation and allow tribal self-certification of populations rather than relying on outside sources. (02-Santo Domingo)

The ARP mandates that $1 billion be distributed to each of the 574 Tribal governments in equal shares, which is about $1,742,000 each. To best assist Alaska Native Tribes, we propose that the Treasury Department allocate an additional $10,000,000 per Tribe as a base element of its distribution formula. In addition, we request that the ARP formula incorporate an element based on actual economic need. For example, the ARP Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund focuses distribution of the $250 million fund on the economic condition of a Tribe based on poverty rates, household income, land values, and unemployment rates. We believe that a similar factor should be included in the formula distributing for all ARP funding to Tribal governments. (61 - ANVCA)

We want to ensure we do not run into a similar situation that occurred with the CARES Act distribution at the Department of the Treasury. (67 - Jamestown S’Klallam)

Due to the federal government’s chronic failure to fully fund trust and treaty obligations, as well as ongoing failures to provide necessary resources, Tribal Nations continue to operate with limited and diminishing resources as we work to address the impacts of COVID-19.  While the $31.2 billion allocated to Tribal Nations under ARP provides hope in both the short- and long-term, DOI needs to work with Tribal Nations to ensure the $1.75 billion it administers, as well as the $20 billion under Treasury’s Fiscal Recovery Fund, is distributed as equitably as possible and in full recognition of Tribal sovereignty.  Expeditious, but thoughtful, distribution of these resources will allow Tribal Nations to both address and begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. (32-USET SPF)

Our experience with direct distributions from Treasury and other government agencies of the COVID funds has involved burdensome reporting requirements and delayed delivery of funds. (34-Osage Nation)

I respectfully request that the Department of Treasury immediately disburse the one billion dollars of non-discretionary monies included the American Rescue Plan Coronavirus Recovery Funds (“ARP CRF”) and designated to be distributed on a pro rata basis to all federally recognized Tribes and, in the interest of developing a just and equitable distribution methodology for the remaining monies, give a pro rata amount of not less than $10 million dollars to each tribe and extend time to submit comments to the Department on the ARP CRF.

  • Treasury has scheduled Tribal Consultation - four consultation sessions - over two days, March 31 and April 1. Treasury has also requested written comments by April 2, 2021. The Tribe requests that the written comment deadline be extended by not less than two weeks. While the Tribe appreciates that Treasury is moving relatively quickly to consult with Tribes, as required under Executive Order 13175, the deadline for written comments is too short for Tribes to be able to thoughtfully and comprehensively consider and respond to the discussions that will occur during the consultation sessions. As was demonstrated in April of last year, and more recently demonstrated last week, 574 federally recognized tribes will have a variety of opinions and views on how the ARP CRF monies should be further allocated. Given this expected diversity of ideas, the Tribes should have more time to adjust their own views and ideas before submitting their final comments in writing.
  • Furthermore, even though Treasury has been tasked with distributing funds to Tribes within 60 days if practicable, and the Tribe recognizes this extension will delay the distribution of the entire fund, the Tribe is more concerned at this point with Treasury establishing a more fair and equitable allocation methodology than that previously decided with the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds. As a mechanism for allocating these funds is a fair, equitable and meaningful distribution to all tribes – regardless of population size, land mass or economic revenues – we call on Treasury to issue a pro rata amount of not less than $10 million. This will leave $14.26 billion to be distributed based on the formula developed utilizing the input from Tribes. As these funds will have to last four years and with the immediate disbursement of the one billion dollars on a pro rata basis, the Tribe is willing to trade time for a fairer formula based on the considered view and input from Tribes once the larger pro rata amount has been distributed. (84-Coyote Valley)

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