Judge Rules In Favor Of Native American Tribes Over Coronavirus Relief Funds

Published: Tuesday, April 28, 2020 - 12:22pm
Updated: Thursday, April 30, 2020 - 4:19pm
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A judge ruled Monday in favor of tribal nations in their lawsuit to keep Alaska Native corporations from taking a share of the coronavirus relief fund. 

More than a dozen tribes including three Alaska tribes allege that Congress intended the $8 billion to go to tribal governments, not corporations. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta said the tribes showed they would suffer irreparable harm unless he blocked the funding from going to the corporations, at least temporarily. 

The Alaska Native corporations have said they support Alaska Natives economically, culturally and socially. But Mehta said they didn’t show how they’re providing public services comparable to the tribes to fight the coronavirus.

Alaska Native corporations are unique to Alaska and own most of the tribal land in the state under a 1971 settlement.

There are 13 regional corporations and about 200 village corporations. The Justice Department argued that the Treasury’s decision to include the for-profit corporations wasn’t subject to judicial review because the funding is for a public health emergency. 

The judge said the Treasury Department could begin distributing the relief funds to the 574 federally recognized tribes Tuesday, two days after the deadline.

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