Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > CARES Act Litigation: Shawnee Tribe v. Yellen
Posted: April 22, 2021

Judge Amit P. Mehta is holding a hearing in Shawnee Tribe v. Yellen, an ongoing CARES Act lawsuit, at 2pm Eastern on April 22, 2021.

At issue in the case is whether Shawnee Tribe, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and the Miccosukee Tribe should receive additional payments from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals already opened the door for additional payments in a ruling on January 5, 2021.

The D.C. Circuit determined that the Trump administration shortchanged the Shawnee Tribe by using zero (0) as the tribe’s population. As a result, the Shawnees received only $100,000 from the first round of CARES Act payments.

Had the tribe’s citizenship base been used instead, the Shawnees would have received at least $12 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). The tribe is based in northeastern Oklahoma.


The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, headquartered in Kansas, and the Miccosukee Tribe, based in Florida, were treated similarly by the prior Trump administration, so they have joined the Shawnees in pursuing additional funds from the CARES Act.

At the hearing on Thursday afternoon, Judge Mehta will consider arguments on a motion for a preliminary injunction submitted by the three tribes. Granting the order would set aside additional funds for the tribes, pending final resolution of the lawsuit. It would also direct the Biden administration to make “immediate” interim payments to the tribes.

The Biden administration at this point is opposing the motion for preliminary injunction. However the Department of the Treasury has indicated that it will change the allocation formula that was utilized last year to distribute CRF payments.

But there is no guarantee that a new formula will address the issues raised by the Shawnee Tribe, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and the Miccosukee Tribe. The matter is further complicated by a separate CARES Act controversy that went before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 19 in which Alaska Native corporations are seeking shares of the CRF.

Overall, Congress provided $8 billion in COVID-19 relief to tribal governments through the CARES Act. The vast majority has been distributed, with about $534 million tied up in the case before the Supreme Court.

The outcome of the Supreme Court case, as well as the forthcoming formula, will impact how the $534 million is distributed.

The hearing will be live-streamed on YouTube. The public can also participate by calling (877) 848-7030 and using the access code 321-8747.

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