Lawmakers seek extension for tribes to spend stimulus money following Treasury delays
Lawmakers are stepping in to seek more time for tribal governments to spend coronavirus relief money after funding slated for Native American communities was delayed by the Treasury Department.
A new bill, which has been introduced by bipartisan teams in both the House and Senate, would give tribal governments until Dec. 30, 2022, to spend funds that would otherwise need to be spent by the end of this year.
“Tribal communities ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic received federal resources and relief far too late — pitting them right up against fast approaching spending deadlines,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), one of the Senate sponsors, adding that the legislation “will allow tribal governments extra time to address the planning needs for these critical funds.”
Tribes were allotted $8 billion in funds through the $2.2 trillion March CARES legislation.
But the funding was repeatedly held up by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who delayed releasing the funds as litigation proceeded over whether corporations affiliated with tribes should receive funds.
A May court ruling blocked so-called Alaska Native Corporations, which have vast land holdings and secure significant profits from timber and oil sales, from receiving the funding.
Treasury began to release some of the funding in May, but it wasn’t until a June court decision by the same judge that Mnuchin was forced to release all the funding.
“The Secretary has now taken more than twice as much time as Congress directed to distribute all CARES Act funds,” U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta wrote at the time.
“The 80 days they have waited, when Congress intended receipt of emergency funds in less than half that time, is long enough,” Mehta added.
Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) is a co-sponsor of the legislation in the Senate, and Reps. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.) and Paul Cook (R-Calif.) sponsored the bill in the House.
Updated on July 22 at 11:07 a.m.