Transcribed by Robert Jumper
Principal Chief Richard Sneed is presenting video chats with key guest speakers who work in different areas of tribal government and life. These videos are available via Chief Sneed’s Facebook page. The following transcribed edition is being made available to our readers with permission.
Chief Sneed: I’m joined again today by Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Cory Blankenship. Today, Cory, we’re going to talk about the American Rescue Plan. Cory, can you tell us what that is?
Secretary Blankenship: The American Rescue Plan or ARP is the second round of covid relief funds that were approved by United States Congress and then signed into law by this administration. Similar to the CARES Act, the American Rescue Plan will provide direct allocation of funding to tribal nations as well as providing, based on funding formulas, assistance through federal agencies with which tribes have a relationship. When we think about the American Rescue Plan really the priority areas for ARP are really funds for tribes, Native American health systems, tribal housing programs, tribal education programs, native language assistance, assisting native families, and native core government services. That’s stated in the legislation. I think what you will see is greater flexibility in the use of these funds and we also know that the time frame has been extended. Whereas with CARES we had a very short window in which to expend the funds, ARP funds going to be available to us until 2024.
Chief Sneed: What are some major differences between CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan?
Secretary Blankenship: CARES Act was rolled out very quickly right to tribes and we were asked to prove presents some certification data to United States Department of Treasury and that included our total enrolled population, total number of employees from the government, and for the entities our government, and entity prior year expenditures, and our total land base. In the Treasury formula they use some of that data and some of it they excluded. As an example, they didn’t use our enrollment data in the first round of CARES funding. They actually used HUD data which for the Eastern Band understated or population and reduced the amount of funding that we would have otherwise been eligible. Tribes have been speaking with one voice to Treasury and to this administration to say use tribal enrollment data when it’s presented to you. The other key differences that the ARP funding allows the Treasury Department to consider loss of revenue as part of their funding formula. We’ve already begun the work of calculating what the loss revenue impact was to EBCI as a direct result of COVID-19 so that when the time comes, we’re able to present that information to United States Department of Treasury. At this point we don’t know how much funding is going to come to the tribe under the ARP program. What we do know is that under the bill $32 million has been allocated to tribes. We know that $1 billion will be split equally among 574 federally recognized tribes which totals about $1.7 million per tribe and the $19 billion will be split by a formula. We don’t know what the details of that formula are just yet and that $12 billion will be available through agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services, the Bureau of Indian affairs, Department of Justice, Housing and Urban development all of which will have formula allocations to tribes based on existing relationships.
Chief Sneed: It seems like with the American Rescue Plan that the Biden administration is taking a lot more time to understand what tribes’ needs are. There’s again misinformation. Has the money come down yet?
Secretary Blankenship: No. For the most part the direct allocation right the direct allocation has not come down. What we are seeing is that HUD for example has released their ARP allocation. You’re seeing renters and mortgage assistance programs come down. Some of these agencies are quicker at releasing their funding because Treasury has access to essentially $20 billion to divide among tribes. They have not released their are plans for a formula or even what additional data they may require from us.
Chief Sneed: Whenever those funds are released, we’ll do another Chief’s Corner. Cory, I’ll have you back and we will update our tribal citizens on what the status of the American Rescue Plan is.