Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > ‘Incompetence’: Update in CARES Act Litigation
Posted: May 30, 2020

With an Abbot testing machine at his side, President Donald Trump signs a Proclamation on Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Awareness Day in Phoenix, Arizona, on May 5, 2020. Photo: Shealah Craighead / White House

The Trump administration might not distribute the remaining $3.2 billion in coronavirus relief funds to tribes next week as originally promised, according to a status report filed on May 29, 2020.

Tribes had until 12pm Eastern on May 29 to submit employment and expenditure information to the Department of the Treasury. But government attorneys claim there are “issues” with the tribal submissions that might affect plans to distribute the money on June 5.

“Many of them are, upon initial review, either incomplete or incorrect,” attorneys for Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin, the defendant in the case, assert in their section of the status report.

“Many of them still have not yet been submitted. For these reasons, it is possible that defendant might not make allocation determinations by June 4, or payments by June 5, 2020,” the report continues.

The Trump administration anticipates providing additional information in another update on June 2. But government attorneys say the potential delays do not warrant further action by the court.

“Defendant has been, and will continue to be, transparent about its timing in status reports filed publicly with this court,” government attorneys say. “Indeed, in light of the fact that status reports will provide the same opportunity as a motion for this court to evaluate the continuing efforts of defendant to pay the amounts provided for by statute, Defendant submits that additional motions practice is entirely unwarranted.”

The tribal plaintiffs in Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Mnuchin disagree. They are renewing  their efforts to force the distribution of the remaining funds as soon as possible.

“Now, at the eleventh hour, defendant states that there will be still more delay — delay that will cause further irreparable harm,” the tribal plaintiffs write in their portion of the status report. 

“Throughout this process, defendant has moved the goal post, committing to one schedule, only to change to another,” the tribes state. “What is worse, now defendant seems to blame the tribes, though the delays – including re-asking for new information than originally requested – plainly stems from defendant’s incompetence.”

“Since defendant has now clarified the distribution will be further and unconscionably delayed beyond June 5, plaintiff tribes have no choice but to renew their motion for an injunction to respectfully ask this Court to mandate distribution by a date certain,” ,” the report continues.

After filing their complaint on April 30, the tribes had asked the judge to order the “immediate” distribution of the entire $8 billion coronavirus relief fund that was promised by Congress more than two months ago. The request was denied on May 11 on the grounds that Treasury’s conduct so far hasn’t been “egregious.”

“But that does not mean the Secretary enjoys an indefinite period to carry out Congress’s command,” Judge Amit P. Mehta wrote.  “This matter remains pending, and plaintiffs are free to renew their motion should the Secretary continue to delay in distributing the remaining emergency funds.”

The plaintiffs in Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Mnuchin are:

  • Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians (California)
  • Ak-Chin Indian Community (Arizona)
  • Northern Arapaho Tribe (Wyoming)
  • Cherokee Nation (Oklahoma)
  • Snoqualmie Tribe (Washington)
  • Yurok Tribe (California)
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