Alaska Native Corporations are entitled to receive federal payments to combat the Covid-19 pandemic under the CARES Act, a Washington court said.
ANCs meet the definition for “Indian Tribe” under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, and therefore qualify for part of the $8 billion in pandemic aid allocated to tribal governments, Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court said June 26.
The term “Indian tribe” means any organized community, including any Alaska Native village or regional corporation or village corporation, the court said in a decision that vacated a preliminary injunction that had blocked payments to ANCs.
Congress expressly included ANCs in the definition of Indian tribe so they could contract with the federal government and deliver public services to Alaska Native populations, the court said.
“The ANCSA Regional Association and Alaska Native Village Corporation Association applaud the D.C. District Court’s decision to uphold the Alaska Native Regional and Village Corporation’s right to receive much-needed funding from Title V of the CARES Act,” Kim Reitmeier, Executive Director of the ANCSA Regional Association, an intervenor in the case, said.
“In addition to granting the funding, the court’s decision also reaffirms our status as ‘Indians’ under the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act, and as defined by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act that was signed into law nearly 50 years ago,” she said.
A group of federally recognized tribes sued April 17 to stop the Secretary of the Treasury from disbursing CARES Act funds to ANCs.
The court granted preliminary relief to the plaintiffs April 27.
The Treasury Department began distributing $4.8 billion of the $8 billion designated for tribal governments on May 5.
The Secretary determined, based on data from the U.S. Department of Housing an Urban Development, that ANCs would receive $162.3 million, but withheld the funds to comply with the preliminary injunction, the court said.
Big Fire Law and Policy Group LLP, Kanji & Katzen PLLC, Walker Reausaw, and others represented the plaintiff tribes. Holland & Hart LLP, Crowell & Moring LLP, and Kirkland & Ellis LLP represented the Alaskan Native Corporations.
The case is Confederates Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation v. Mnuchin, D.D.C., No. 20-cv-1002, 6/26/20.