A Message from the Tribal Treasurer about the Coronavirus Relief Funds CARES Act
The Otoe-Missouria Tribe has been in consultation regarding the CARES Act with the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Treasury as well as the Native American Financial Officer Association (NAFOA), National Indian Health Board (NIHB), National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), National Council of Urban Indian Health (NCUIH), National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC), National Indian Education Association (NIEA) and Native American Contractors Association (NACA). Below is a timeline of consultations in which the tribe participated.
- On March 17, 2020 NAFOA held a Tribal Leader COVID-19 Response Call to inform tribal leaders of what phases of funding would be available to help fight this historical pandemic
- On March 26, 2020 a Tribal Leader Town Hall: COVID-19 Phase 3 Legislation call happened that included numerous native organizations who gave an update to all tribal leaders of what their organizations were doing to advocate for legislation to provide Coronavirus relief in Indian Country.
- On March 30, 2020 NAFOA made a Tribal Consultation announcement on the $8B Coronavirus Relive Fund (CRF) to Tribes. Following this announcement, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Treasury decided to hold two Tribal Leader Consultations calls to determine how to distribute the $8 billion designated to Indian Country from the Coronavirus Relief Fund within The CARES Act.
- On April 2, 2020 the first Tribal Leader Consultation with the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Treasury was held.
- On April 9, 2020 the second Tribal Leader Consultation with the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Treasury was held
- On April 16th the Tribe submitted everything that was requested by the Department of Treasury. The information provided was not used, instead Treasury issued funds based on the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) formulation.
- On May 5th, the Otoe-Missouria Tribe received $1,289,269.14 from Department of Treasury. This was one of two disbursements designated from the CRF.
- On May 14, 2020 the Department of Treasury published guidance on how to complete the request for additional data for the disbursement of the remaining 40 percent of the $8 billion of CRF to Indian Country.
- On May 26, 2020 the Otoe-Missouria Tribe provided additional data to the Department of Treasury to access the remaining 40 percent of funds obligated to tribes from the CRF.
By deciding to use the IHBG formulation for the first round of assistance, the Department of Treasury limited funding to tribes like ours with a small land base and low census population. The formula area corresponds approximately with the area of our Tribal jurisdiction and other areas to which our Tribal government provides services and economic impacts extend. According to their funding announcement, the Department of Treasury felt that using the IHBG formula was useful because it incorporates adjustments to address overlapping jurisdictions. Using this formula, however, limited the amount of funding we received. During our numerous consultations, the U.S. Department of Treasury did not mention using the IHBG formulation before the disbursement of funds.
The Otoe-Missouria Tribal Council will be working to update our data to guarantee we don’t miss out on funds in the future. We need your help in this fight as well, please complete the Census form you have received at your home or go online to www.2020census.gov. When completing the form make sure you list everyone living in your home along with OTOE-MISSOURIA as your tribal designation.
After listening to numerous conference calls, getting advice from our tribal attorneys, reading the recently updated CRF FAQ’s (May 28, 2020 by the U.S Department of the Treasury) and reading the Coronavirus Relief Fund guidance for Tribal Governments we have determined that the allowable use of this federal assistance is limited. Based on the recent CRF FAQs, Administration of Fund Payments confirms that the funds are considered federal financial assistance for purposes of the Single Audit Act. Which means the funds are subject to audit and the funds issued by the tribe must comply with the Uniform Guidance. We want to make sure we are following the regulations set forth by the U.S. Department of Treasury.
There are three rules we must follow when issuing these funds:
1) are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
2) were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act) for the State or government
3) were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020 and ends on December 30, 2020.
The Otoe-Missouria Tribal Council voted on May 29, 2020 to provide additional aid through our Tribal Assistance Program to all enrolled members. Therefore we will be offering need-based assistance up to $100 per tribal member. You may apply for the assistance now and checks will be mailed the week of June 15th. The Otoe-Missouria Tribal Council wanted to make sure we provide the assistance to all 3,283 tribal members. We hope to issue another round of assistance once we have received the rest of our funding from the U.S. Department of Treasury.
The additional funds will be used to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning supplies, medical supplies (thermometers, sterilization machines, etc) and other needs to help the tribe reopen while protecting our employees and visitors. Additionally, each department will be assessing its needs to continue services to tribal members in the fall with the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19.
I hope this answers the many questions we have received from tribal members about the CARES Act funding. I will work to update you with additional information regarding our assistance in future posts and in our tribal newsletter.
This has been a difficult time for our people. Several of our tribal members, staff and Tribal Council battled the virus. Sadly, we lost some of our Jiwere Nut’achi people to the disease. Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with those families and yours at this challenging time.