Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > CARES Act Litigation: Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation v. Mnuchin
Posted: June 16, 2020

The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation on June 15, 2020, filed a notice of appeal in its CARES Act lawsuit against the Trump administration.

“Notice is hereby given this 15th day of June, 2020, that Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation hereby appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from the order of this Court entered on the 11th day of June, 2020 denying Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s motion for a preliminary injunction in this matter,” the one-page document reads.

The Kansas-based tribe filed suit on June 8. The complaint accuses the Department of the Treasury of underfunding the tribe’s share of the $8 billion coronavirus relief fund by failing to take its enrollment into account. The lawsuit claims the tribe was deprived of $7.65 million.

“In this motion, plaintiff seeks to restrain Treasury from disbursing $3.2 billion dollars of CARES Act funds to ‘Tribal governments’ until it adopts an allocation methodology that corrects its underfunding of tribes like Prairie Band Potawatomi that resulted from Treasury’ arbitrary and capricious decision to ignore tribal enrollment when making distributions on the basis of Tribal population,” states a motion for a temporary restraining order, also filed on June 8.

Following a teleconference hearing on June 11, Judge Amit P. Mehta denied the tribe’s motion for a preliminary injunction. In a five-page decision, Mehta said the tribe waited too long to file suit and noted that Treasury’s allocation methodology was “unreviewable” in court.

Mehta also pointed out that tribes have been waiting more than two months for the Trump administration to distribute the COVID-19 relief promised under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act.

Mehta said “it would be patently unfair to make Tribal governments wait any longer to receive the remaining CARES Act funds.”

Despite the order, Treasury on the following day announced it was withholding $679 million from tribes, because of the Prairie Band lawsuit. Another round of payments from the coronavirus relief fund was authorized on June 12, though tribes didn’t start seeing the money in their accounts until June 15.

Later on June 15, Mehta ordered Treasury to distribute the full amount owed to tribes as part of a different case known as Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Mnuchin. The department has not yet said whether it has done so.

With the notice, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation v. Mnuchin will move to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. 

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