A statue of Albert Gallatin, the 4th United States Secretary of the Treasury stands on the north side of the Department of the Treasury in Washington, D.C. Gallatin studied tribal nations and was a personal friend of Cherokee leader John Ridge. His work on Native languages has led some to call him "the father of American ethnology." Photo: dog97209

Native Sun News Today: Pandemic consolation prize: View from Indian Country

Tribal government ‘can help out’ with pandemic stimulus payments


ROSEBUD – On May 28, Rosebud Sioux Tribal President Rodney Bordeaux said his government “can help out” with a grassroots effort to assist members in claiming elusive pandemic stimulus payments under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

His statement responded to a request for support from the Oyate For Fairness and Equal Representation, or OFFER, a voter empowerment group with a track record of enlisting tribal government backing for other actions to benefit Rosebud Indian Reservation residents over the years.

OFFER leader Ronald L. Neiss texted Bordeaux saying that he and OFFER colleague Rose Cordier have been “doing outreach and filing assistance” for tribal members who have had trouble obtaining the universal emergency aid of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.

“We are hoping that the tribe can support a necessary wider effort. This should be a Rosebud Sioux Tribe project,” Neiss said to Bordeaux, adding, “I believe that the benefits would be tremendous to our local economy.” OFFER is willing to facilitate as needed, he noted.

OFFER founder, Ronald L. Neiss, votes during a stand-up vote to delay the amendments.

Posted by Rosebud Cordier on Saturday, September 14, 2019
OFFER leader Ronald L. Neiss urges tribal governments to “step up to the assistance plate to help those tribal members who have fallen through the cracks” of the stimulus payment system. Photo: Rosebud Cordier

Bordeaux told the Native Sun News Today that the tribe’s tax service has been discontinued and he has been “inundated” by the demands of confronting the coronavirus pandemic with just a skeleton crew allowed to work.

He said that obtaining the stimulus benefit is an “individual’s responsibility” but noted that his own relief money had arrived late. For cases of people in need, he stated, “We can help out with that.”

The tribal government imposed a partial lockdown on the reservation, when Covid-19 cases began to appear here. The government offices closed and only employees providing so-called “essential” services reported for work.

The lockdown -- complete with stay-at-home orders, limited business hours, curfews, and highway health checkpoints – extends until at least June 30, but Bordeaux asked a minimal number of additional staff to return to work beginning June 1.

As in hundreds of other tribal governments nationwide, the Rosebud Administration has had an unusual burden of work in filing a lawsuit and compiling census data for its population in order to claim even a portion of the $8 million the U.S. Congress set aside for the tribes’ operations in the CARES Act.

Meanwhile, Neiss has been bugging the President and entire tribal council for more than two months, urging that elected leadership “step up to the assistance plate to help those tribal members who have fallen through the cracks" of the stimulus payment system.

“Mainly we’re just dealing with this virus crisis,” Bordeaux said, but now, he added, “We can set something up.”

While some tribal members have not received the individual stimulus payments as Congress directed on March 27, yet others died even before the pandemic’s outbreak and received it anyway.

After dropping behind schedule on delivering the aid, the Internal Revenue Service announced on May 27 that it has been sending the funds to some people in the novel form of prepaid debit cards ever since the middle of the month.

About 4 million people are slated to receive the cards, in addition to some 276 million obtaining the stimulus pay in checks via the U.S. mail or in direct bank deposits.

Neiss flagged the new plastic money as an additional hitch for tribal constituencies or others who could mistake the unexpected delivery for junk mail.

Such delivery challenges transcend Indian country, observed former South Dakota Legislator Liz May, from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, adjacent to Rosebud.

“The problem is logistical: 330 million Americans, and a bureaucracy that wasn't prepared to take on this huge undertaking,” May told the Native Sun News Today.

Neiss may be contacted at ronaldneiss@outlook.com and 605-208-6136.


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