Court rules Alaska Native corporations do not qualify for CARES Act funds

Published: Sep. 25, 2020 at 1:58 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska Native corporations cannot receive a portion of the $8 billion in funds allocated to tribal governments, a U.S. district court decided Friday.

The CARES Act was passed in March and allocated billions to tribal governments as they are “the recognized governing body of an Indian Tribe."

In April, the Department of Treasury had included Alaska Native corporations in their data collection to allocate the funds. Within days, several Native American and Alaska Native tribes challenged the inclusion of Alaska Native corporations in CARES Act funding allocations.

On Friday, the district court ruled Alaska Native corporations did not fall under the definition of a state or a unit of local government and did not satisfy the definition laid out in the ISDA of an “Indian tribe.”

If held, this decision means Alaska Native corporations will not be able to receive CARES Act funds allocated in Title V of the act.

The Alaska congressional delegation of Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young criticized the ruling for withholding aid from Alaska Native groups and “erasing more than 45 years of precedent and practice,” for how tribal systems in Alaska operate.

“The CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund tribal set-aside was created to provide pandemic relief for all American Indian and Alaska Native people, regardless of how they receive the relief," the delegation said in a statement. “It is unconscionable that COVID-19 aid would be withheld from a subset of Alaska Native people simply because of the unique tribal system that exists in Alaska.”

Alyse Galvin, a candidate for U.S. House Representative, said the decision was a “tragic loss” for the state and the money would have provided “much-needed” relief funds.

Jeffry Silverman, representing the Alaska Federation of Natives, said the federation is analyzing the decision.

This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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