Tribes Win Preliminary Injunction Preventing COVID-19 Funding From Being Diverted to Corporations
On April 27, 2020, a group of Indian tribes that includes Picuris Pueblo and the Navajo Nation (Rothstein Donatelli represents Picuris Pueblo and is co-counsel with the Navajo Nation Department of Justice for the Navajo Nation), won a preliminary injunction that prevents the Treasury Department from taking COVID-19 relief money designated for Indian tribes and diverting it to for-profit corporations.
Judge Amit P. Mehta ruled that when Congress set aside $8 billion for Indian tribes to respond to the Coronavirus, it did not intend for those funds to go to Alaska native corporations ("ANCs"), which are for-profit corporations. Judge Mehta prohibited the Treasury Department from distributing any portion of the $8 billion in relief funds to ANCs until final judgment in the case.
Since that ruling, a number of ANCs have intervened in the case, and the Court has set an expedited briefing schedule for summary judgment on the plaintiff tribes' claims. The Treasury Department has also distributed some of the relief funds to Indian tribes, but it has withheld certain amounts that it has designated for the ANCs.
The plaintiff tribes are continuing to fight to ensure that all of the relief funds are distributed to Indian tribes, as Congress intended.
The case is Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, et al. v. Mnuchin, Case No. 20-cv-01002 (APM) (D.D.C.)
Coverage of the case in the New York Times can be found here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/01/us/politics/coronavirus-native-american-tribes-treasury-stimulus.html
Coverage of the case in the Albuquerque Journal can be found here: https://www.abqjournal.com/1448226/judge-corporations-prevented-from-receiving-tribal-relief-funds.html