Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > CARES Act Litigation: Shawnee Tribe v. Mnuchin
Posted: January 18, 2021

The E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse houses both the federal court for the District of Columbia and the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

A federal judge recently issued two orders in Shawnee Tribe v. Mnuchin, an ongoing dispute over COVID-19 relief for tribal governments.

On January 14, 2021, Judge Amit P. Mehta ordered the Department of the Treasury to set aside $12 million in COVID-19 funding, pending further litigation. The order comes after the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Shawnee Tribe was shortchanged its share of funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act.

Should the Shawnees eventually prevail in the case, the $12 million could be awarded to the Oklahoma-based tribe to address the shortfall.


In a separate order on January 14, Mehta consolidated the Shawnee Tribe’s case with similar lawsuits filed by the Miccosukee Tribe, based in Florida, and the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, headquartered in Kansas. All three Indian nations allege Treasury failed to take into account their citizenship bases when distributing the first round of payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

Treasury based the first payment on U.S. Census Bureau data that is kept by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Tribes were not consulted or informed about the allocation method until Donald Trump, the outgoing Republican president, was on his way to a tribal roundtable in Phoenix, Arizona, on May 5.

A second and third payment were made in June, following litigation by a group of tribes. The payments were based on employment and expenditure data submitted by tribal governments.

In total, the CARES Act authorized $8 billion in COVID-19 relief for tribes. All but $534 million has been distributed  — the remainder is being held up as a result of a different lawsuit involving the ability of Alaska Native corporations to receive the funds. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to resolve the dispute in Mnuchin v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, No. 20-543, and Alaska Native Village Corporation Association v. Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, No. 20-544.

A status hearing in Shawnee Tribe v. Mnuchin, 20-cv-1999; Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida v. U.S. Department of Treasury, 20-cv-2792; and Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation v. Mnuchin, 21-cv-12, will take place via teleconference on January 21 at 10am Eastern. The public can participate by calling (877) 848-703 and using access code 321-8747.

Shawnee Tribe (Oklahoma)

CARES Act Decision: Shawnee Tribe v. Mnuchin

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