Tribal Government & News

Tribes submit enrollment data for American Rescue Plan funding

04.12.2021 Dean Rhodes Federal government, Tribal government


By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

Native American Tribes had until Monday, April 12, to submit enrollment data to the U.S. Department of the Interior to help it figure out funding allocations under the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan signed into law by President Joe Biden on March 12, 2021.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs reached out to all federally recognized Tribes seeking the data following three Tribal consultations held in late March.

Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez confirmed that the Grand Ronde Tribe met the deadline to submit enrollment data.

“We provided our information last week,” she said.

The Grand Ronde Tribe participated in a Treasury Department Tribal consultation regarding distribution of the funds on Thursday, April 1, according to agendas distributed by the Tribal government.

The American Rescue Plan will invest more than $31 billion in Indian Country with the Bureau of Indian Affairs charged with distributing $900 million to Tribal governments through its programs.

“Enrollment data is needed to equitably and transparently allocate funding to Tribes for Tribal governmental services and is also an important source of information for supporting equitable distribution of resources by Indian Affairs and other federal agencies,” states a BIA press release.

The BIA funding includes $772.5 million for Tribal government services, public safety and justice, social services, Indian child welfare and related expenses. It also includes $20 million for delivery of potable water and $100 million for housing improvements. In addition, there is another $850 million available for the Bureau of Indian Education’s 183 K-12 schools.

Additional American Rescue Plan funding for Indian Country includes $20 billion for Tribal governments to combat COVID-19 and stabilize safety-net programs, $6 billion for the Indian Health Service, $1.248 billion for Housing & Urban Development Tribal housing programs and $20 million to mitigate the effect of the pandemic on Native languages.

The Trump administration received criticism in 2020 for not using Tribal enrollment data when it distributed Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funding to Tribes nationwide.

Despite requesting enrollment numbers, the federal government instead used outdated federal housing program population data to distribute the first portion of the $8 billion allocated to Native American Tribes.

This led to all nine Oregon Tribes benefitting from Treasury’s allocation formula while some Tribes, such as the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, lost hundreds of millions of dollars in funding.

The Grand Ronde Tribe received more than $45 million in CARES Act funding and used a considerable portion of it to fund the Coronavirus Relief Payment Program that sent adult Tribal members $4,400 in a combined eight payments during 2020 to help offset the economic hardships caused by the pandemic. The Tribe is still using the 2020 funding, allocating a portion of it to pay for another full-time officer with the Grand Ronde Tribal Police Department. The deadline for Tribes to spend CARES Act funding was extended a year until the end of 2021.

The 2,946-member Spokane Tribe of Indians in Washington state recently announced in a special edition of its Rawhide Press newspaper that it is assuming an allocation of between $50 million and $75 million and that it will distribute 20 percent of whatever amount is received directly to Tribal members in four quarterly payments.

“While the legislation allows for support to households, the regulations governing how funds can be spent have not been published,” the Spokane Tribe said. “And the U.S. Treasury has not decided on the formula by which they will allocate funds. … This wide range of possibilities reflects the uncertainty surrounding the formula Treasury will use.”

The Spokane Tribe also announced that it would use American Rescue Plan funding to develop a wood/hemp pellet enterprise and meat distribution program, support food sovereignty programs and work with its housing authority to expand housing options for Tribal members.

Hernandez said the Grand Ronde Tribe is waiting to see the federal guidance and regulations regarding use of American Rescue Plan funds before making any decisions on how to allocate it. She added the Tribe does not have an estimate of how much funding it might receive.