American Indians and Alaskan natives have felt the burden of the COVID-19 virus disproportionately. The incidence of infections in native populations is approximately 3.5 times that of white populations, and the the death rate is almost double. Now, a group of Native American tribes claim that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has failed to quickly distribute $ 679 million in an emergency. COVID-19[female[feminine $ 2.2 trillion stimulus program tribal relief fund.
The case, one of the biggest battles between tribal governments and the United States in decades, will go to the Supreme Court this year.
In May, Confederate tribes in the Chehalis reserve said they had not received any of the $ 8 billion allocated to help struggling indigenous populations weather the pandemic – which was due to be distributed by April – and have the Trump administration sued. Eventually, the Treasury distributed about $ 4.8 billion at the end of May and most of the remaining $ 3.2 billion in June, but kept the remaining $ 679 million.
“We have encountered serious problems” Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, deputy chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said. “The Treasury does not know the tribes. They don’t know how to properly interact with tribes and they just aren’t doing their job.
Other delays stemmed from a disagreement over the right to assistance of indigenous populations. The Trump administration has decided to help Alaska Native Societies, which are for-profit businesses serving the tribal areas of Alaska. Tribes across the country disagreed with the decision, saying the companies did not meet the legal definition of tribal government, taking money from communities in desperate need of relief.
In May, Judge Amit P. Mehta of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a temporary injunction to stop the transfer of funds to these companies during the trial and continue to administer the funding directly to tribal governments. . The Treasury refused, however, saying the court “has not yet reached a decision.”
In June, with the funds still not being distributed, Mehta issued another order to send the remaining $ 679 million withheld to the tribes. “This amount is withheld of its own free will,” Mehta said. “The secretary’s refusal to ‘resolve any potentially adverse decision in litigation’ … simply cannot be justified.”
Representative Deb Haaland, one of five Native American representatives to Congress, tweeted that the courts should not have been involved in the case. “Sovereign nations should never have to fight for money that Congress approves, ever,” she wrote. “It’s a shame that a judge has to force the Treasury to do its job.”
Mnuchin and the Alaskan Native Societies then petitioned the Supreme Court for certiorari, arguing that the CARES Act provided for Alaskan Native societies to receive funds.Supreme Court allowed one hour to hear the case and render a decision, which will likely occur under the Joe Biden administration.
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