Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > CARES Act Litigation: Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation v. Mnuchin
Posted: June 18, 2020

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 18, 2020, opened a docket for Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation v. Mnuchin, one of the lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s handling of the $8 billion coronavirus relief fund.

The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation filed suit against Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin on June 8. The lawsuit accuses the Department of the Treasury of “underfunding” the tribe’s share of the coronavirus relief fund by failing to take its enrollment into account.

The tribe received $2,456,891, a figure that was based on the Indian housing population on and near its reservation in Kansas. Had enrollment been taken into account, the tribe believes it should have received an additional $7,647,063, for a total of $10,103,954. The percentage difference is staggering.

“Unsurprisingly, Treasury’s data set grossly undercounted the Prairie Band Potawatomi’s total enrolled population, by 3,678, or approximately eighty percent,” the tribe’s complaint reads.

Following a brief teleconference on June 8, arguments on the tribe’s motion for a preliminary injunction took place on June 11. During that hearing, attorneys for the Trump administration disclosed that Treasury was planning to withhold $679 million in COVID-19 relief from all Indian nations while the lawsuit proceeded.

Later on June 11, Judge Amit P. Mehta denied the tribe’s motion, holding that Treasury’s allocation method was “unreviewable” in court. The ruling made clear that holding up additional funds for tribes was “patently unfair” in light of the repeated delays they have faced in securing payments from the $8 billion.

Despite the ruling, Treasury on June 12 said it was going to Treasury unilaterally withheld additional funds from every tribal government as it distributed the $3.2 billion remaining in the fund. On June 15, Mehta ordered all of the funds to be released. 

On June 17, Treasury said it was going to pay the $679 million that had been withheld. However, the department declined to set aside the $7.65 million that might have gone to the Prairie Band.

Prior to Treasury’s announcement, Prairie Band.filed a notice of appeal in its case. The lawsuit is now before the D.C. Circuit, which will be accepting initial submission from the tribe and from the Trump administration pursuant to an order issued by the clerk on June 18.


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