Last night, a federal judge ordered U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to halt the distribution of CARES Act relief funding earmarked for tribal governments to Alaska Native Corporations, siding with tribal governments in the first round of this historic case. You can read the full ruling here. Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) has become the first member of Congress to call for an investigation into the release of sensitive tribal data that occurred on Friday, April 17, 202.
After a 205% increase in COVID-19 cases in South Dakota, tribal leaders are demanding a substantial increase in protection from the virus, while The New York Times shows how physical distance from care centers has contributed to the dramatic increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases in rural areas such as the Navajo Nation.
The NDN Collective has pledged to give $3.5 million dollars to tribal and Indigenous organizations as well as $5,000 grants for Indigenous entrepreneurs and artists, and five tribal communities in Maine have received $500,000 to support substance treatment use and mental illness care efforts, while much like the rest of Indian Country, tribes in Minnesota are still waiting for aid from the federal government to help their communities combat COVID-19.
Keep reading for a full news update.
CARES Act Funding and Lawsuit:
Sen. Heinrich Calls For An Investigation Into The Release Of Sensitive Tribal Data
Native News Online, April 28
One United States senator is calling for an investigation into the breach of sensitive tribal data that occurred on Friday, April 17, 2020.
The breached data was information supplied by tribes and Alaska Native Corporations to the U.S. Department of Treasury and the U.S. Department of the Interior for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds. Eleven days after the breach occurred, the source is still not known.
Judge Halts Distribution Of Relief Funding To Alaska Native Corporations
Indian Country Today, Joaqlin Estus, April 27
A federal judge on Monday ordered U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to halt distribution of COVID-19 relief funds to Alaska Native corporations but stopped short of telling him to distribute all the money to tribes.
Federal Court Enjoins Treasury From Disbursing CARES Act Funds To ANCs (For Now) [Document]
Turtle Talk Law Blog, April 27
Federal Judge Temporarily Halts Treasury From Issuing COVID-19 Emergency Funds To Alaska Native Corporations
Anchorage Daily News, Alex DeMarban, April 27
A federal judge Monday granted a temporary restraining order to halt the distribution of coronavirus relief payments to Alaska Native corporations. A number of tribes, including three in Alaska, have argued that the $8 billion allotment is not meant for the for-profit corporations.
CARES Act Decision
Indianz.com, April 27
As promised, a federal judge on April 27, 2020, issued a decision in the closely-watched CARES Act lawsuit.
Judge Amit Mehta sided with tribal governments in the first round of the historic case. The Trump administration at this point in the litigation cannot distribute the $8 billion coronavirus relief fund to Alaska Native corporations, the 34-page decision states.
Courts, Treasury Debate COVID-19 Funding For Indian Country
Indian Country Today, Felicia Fonseca, April 27
A federal judge said he will issue a decision Monday on a request from tribal nations to temporarily halt the distribution of $8 billion in coronavirus relief funding for tribes.
At least 15 tribes across the country have sued the U.S. Treasury Department, saying the funding should go only to the 574 tribes that have a government-to-government relationship with the U.S., not to Alaska Native corporations.
‘It’s Just Always A Battle’: Native Nations In Minnesota Still Waiting For Federal COVID-19 Aid
Duluth News Tribune, Dan Gunderson, April 27
The federal government has distributed billions of dollars in coronavirus aid to individuals, businesses, states and cities in the past month.
But many tribal governments across the country are still waiting for the federal pandemic aid designated for them.
Tribes Face Cultural, Economic Hardships Amid Coronavirus Stay-Home Orders
San Diego Union Tribune, Lauren Mapp, April 27
From smallpox to the 1918 flu pandemic, Native Americans have been decimated by viral outbreaks. And that gives them good reason to be alarmed about the latest foe: COVID-19.
Native Americans have higher rates of chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and asthma, that can make them more susceptible to infections. And tribal members often have limited access to health care.
NDN Collective Offers Millions To Tribes, Indigenous Nonprofits, Artists And Entrepreneurs
Indian Country Today, Vincent Schilling, April 27
The NDN Collective Inc., a nonprofit organization self-described as an entity built “to equip all Indigenous peoples with the tools needed to become architects of our future,” has recently announced the creation of the NDN COVID-19 Response Project — a project designed to “provide immediate relief to some of the most underserved communities in the country.”
Collins, King Announce $500,000 For Tribal Communities to Combat Substance Use And Mental Illness Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
wagmtv.com, April 27
U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Angus King (I-Maine) announced the five tribal communities in Maine have received $500,000 from the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration to support substance treatment use and mental illness care efforts. The funding is awarded to the Wabanaki Health and Wellness (WHW) organization, and will specifically benefit the following tribes: Aroostook Band of Micmac; Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians; Passamaquoddy, Pleasant Point; Passamaquoddy, Indian Township; and Penobscot Nation.
South Dakota Tribal Leaders Demand Statewide COVID-19 Protections
Native News Online, April 26
South Dakota tribes say they are highly concerned by the lack of leadership from South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who has not instituted a stay-at-home order, banned evictions and power shut-offs, or closed nonessential businesses.
Where Americans Live Far From The Emergency Room
New York Times, Ella Koeze, April 26
As the coronavirus outbreak spreads into rural parts of the United States, more people who live far from a hospital are increasingly likely to need one. That poses challenges for communities where hospitals are scarce and I.C.U. beds are in short supply — even a relatively small outbreak there could overwhelm medical resources, with potentially grim consequences for public health.
Two North Dakota Tribes Settle Lawsuit With State To Ease Tribal Members Voting
Native News Online, April 26
A voting rights lawsuit brought by two North Dakota tribes against the state of North Dakota in 2016 is being settled.
On Friday, the Spirit Lake Nation and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe filed a binding agreement with the state of North Dakota that will allow American Indian voters without a street address to have their ballots counted. The agreement allows American Indian voters who do not have or do not know their residential street address to locate their residence on a map at the polls or when applying for an absentee ballot and be provided with their address by county officials.