Democratic Senators Press Treasury on Tribal Concerns on Coronavirus Relief Funds

Jun 3, 2020Congressional Legislation, News

Last week, Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, was joined by 11 of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate in  sending a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asking for a clarification of the disbursement formula used to distribute CARES Act payments to Tribal governments.

The Treasury Department originally indicated that it would use population numbers from the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) as the dataset for the disbursement of the $8 billion, since that data is “already familiar to Tribal governments.”

“We have received reports that call into question the validity of that characterization and raise the possibility that Treasury inaccurately calculated the first round of Tribal CRF allocation payments,” the senators wrote. “Treasury has reportedly not provided a meaningful explanation for how it accounted for Tribes not included in IHBG population data and Tribes have expressed concerns over Treasury’s reliance on HUD’s population figures without prior consultation.”

The senators expressed apprehension that Treasury’s dependence on Housing and Urban Development (HUD) could allow for an unfair allocation of payments. Also, Tribes have not had the opportunities necessary for providing feedback to ensure accurate distribution.

The senators also requested that the Treasury provide a record of the allocations using the IHBG-based formula “to ensure that this disbursement methodology is fully transparent and that all Tribes receive adequate funds to ensure the health and safety of their Tribal communities.”

Alongside Udall, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Il.), Angus King (I-Maine), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

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