MURKOWSKI AND SULLIVAN SECURE EXTENSION OF COVID RELIEF DOLLARS FOR ALASKA NIGES
Senate passes bill to allow unspent COVID relief dollars for infrastructure and disaster relief
October 21, 2021
Source: Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)
WASHINGTONâU.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (both R-Alaska) welcomed the Senate passage last night of S.3011, on State, Local Government, Tribal and Territory Flexibility Act for Tax Adjustment, Infrastructure and Disaster Relief, legislation that includes a provision Senators drafted granting an extension until Dec.31, 2022 for tribes, including Alaska Native Societies (ANC), to spend resources from the Coronavirus Relief Fund ( CRF) from March 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES).
The eligibility of NCAs for this COVID-19 relief has been the subject of months of litigation, culminating in a June decision by the United States Supreme Court upholding their access to tribal set-aside under Title V of the CARES Law. NCAs, having only recently received disbursements from the Treasury Department, requested more time to spend the roughly $ 443.8 million allocated to them, which was due to expire at the end of 2021.
The legislation also makes several categories of infrastructure and disaster relief investments eligible for unspent COVID-19 relief dollars and extends the time frame for using relief funds if they are budgeted for relief projects. eligible infrastructure.
âThis extension of the CARES Act is of critical importance to tribal governments that received their CARES Act allocations late due to an eligibility dispute, more than a year after the start of disbursements to the CARES Act. other tribal governments. This bill allows more flexibility for state and local governments to determine how best to use federal funding for COVID relief, â said Senator Murkowski. âAlaska leads the country in positive cases per capita, and unfortunately our state also recently had the nation’s highest rates for COVID-19 deaths per capita. Our entire state, including Alaska’s native communities, continues to experience the hardships of the pandemic due to the COVID-19 variants and must still use these relief funds. I urge the House to pass this legislation swiftly to provide certainty for tribal governments affected by late disbursements and to empower local leaders to make decisions about what is best for their communities.
“The NCAs have been in limbo since spring 2020, full of hope but uncertain that they would have equitable access to tribal resources under the CARES law”, said Senator Sullivan. “With the Supreme Court’s just ruling upholding Alaska’s unique tribal system for service delivery and NCA access to these federal resources, NCAs face a lack of time to secure COVID relief dollars -19. This unnecessary rush is not in the interests of good governance or the people we serve. I thank my colleagues for joining us in this effort, which does not consist of spending New federal dollars, but instead allowing reasonable flexibility to deploy CARES law relief in the best interests of our constituents, whose lives, businesses and communities have been turned upside down by the pandemic. “
The larger bill, led by Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Gives more flexibility to states, tribes and local government units to spend their allocations in the frame of CARES Law. The bill sets a cap – whichever is $ 10 million or 30% of funds – on the amount of relief money that can be spent for new purposes, such as infrastructure investments.
- On March 27, 2020, CARES Law was enacted, including an $ 8 billion reserve for tribal governments.
- On April 14, 2020, the Alaska Congressional delegation wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Home Secretary David Bernhardt detail the legal framework and unique circumstances of tribal entities in Alaska. The letter provided a history of regional Alaskan companies, which are eligible for CARES Law help because of the definition of “Indian tribe” used in the bill.
- In April 2020, several tribes filed lawsuits to prevent CARES Law funds to be distributed to NCAs.
- On April 23, 2020, the delegation wrote an editorial in Anchorage Daily News to correct misinterpretations regarding NCAs and explain why entities are eligible for CARES Law funds.
- On June 26, 2020, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta NCAs judged are eligible for help. Mehta J. based his decision on the definition of “Indian tribe” provided by the 1975 Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act and used in the CARES Law, which included ANC.
- On September 25, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit overturned the June 26 decision and determined that NCAs are not eligible for appropriate tribal assistance by the CARES Law.
- In November 2020, the Alaska Congressional delegation filed an amicus curiae brief urging the Supreme Court to allow the motion for a writ of certiorari in support of the ANC’s eligibility for appropriate tribal aid by the CARES Law.
- On February 26, 2021, the delegation of Alaska filed an amicus brief in support of the NCAs on the merits of the case. The amicus brief warns that the indigenous peoples of Alaska will face significant negative consequences following the DC Court of Appeals ruling of September 25, 2020, which ruled that NCAs are not eligible for the CARES Law CRF tribal fallow. The DC Circuit Court ruling, the delegation argued, destabilizes the agencies and legislative practices that have been in place for more than 40 years, as well as the systems in place that deliver programs and services to Alaska Natives throughout. the state.
- On June 25, 2021, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Yellen v. Confederate tribes of the Chehalis reserve, supporting the decades-long inclusion of the NCAs as “Indian tribes” under the Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act (ISDA), also known as ISDEAA, confirming the eligibility of the ANC for the tribal set-aside of the CRF under Title V of the CARES Law.
- On September 14, 2021, Senator Sullivan introduced and Senator Murkowski co-sponsored S.2728, a bill to extend the time limit for tribal governments to use CARES Law Resources. The wording of the bill was incorporated into that of Senators Cornyn and PadillaState, Local Government, Tribal and Territory Flexibility Act for Tax Adjustment, Infrastructure and Disaster Relief, adopted by the Senate on October 19.