Alaska Native Corporations to Receive Coronavirus Relief Earmarked for Indian Tribes

Posted on: April 23, 2020, 04:24h. 

Last updated on: April 23, 2020, 04:33h.

Alaska Native Corporations (ANC), for-profit enterprises that are owned by Native Americans, will receive coronavirus stimulus money designated for sovereign Indian tribes.

Alaska Native Corporations coronavirus stimulus
Alaska Native Corporations, like the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, the largest Alaskan-owned and operated company in the state, will receive coronavirus funds designated for Indian tribes. (Image: ASRC)

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), $8 billion was set aside for Native American communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Six tribes last week sued the federal government, with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin named as defendant, on grounds that the CARES money should not be allocated to ANCs.

Numerous Native American tribes in the Lower 48 contend that unlike the Alaska corporations, their communities are being severely impacted by the health crisis. All Indian casinos, which are the main revenue generators for the majority of federally recognized tribes, remain closed to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Alaska Native Corporations were established in 1971 when the US government settled land claims and financial disputes with indigenous Alaskan people. Today, there are 13 corporations, which have more than 200 subsidiaries, that are engaged in various businesses, including oil and gas production, mining, land preservation, hospitality, farming, and fishing.

Case Dismissed

Joseph Hunt, assistant attorney general for the US Department of Justice, today dismissed the tribes’ lawsuit that sought to force the Treasury Department to forego allocating part of the $8 billion to ANCs.

Plaintiffs have not met their burden to obtain the extraordinary relief of a temporary restraining order of preliminary injunction,” Hunt ruled.

In Hunt’s response to the litigation, he cites an opinion from the Treasury Department that stated, “After consultation with the Department of the Interior, Treasury has concluded that Alaska Native regional and village corporations as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, are eligible to receive payments from the Fund in the amounts to be determined by the Secretary of the Treasury. In determining the appropriate allocations of payments to Tribal governments, Treasury intends to take steps to account for overlaps between Alaskan Native village membership and Alaska Native corporation shareholders or other beneficiaries.”

Hunt added, “Congress expressly chose to include ANCs in the CARES Act … but those ANCs stand to receive no funding if Plaintiffs prevail. By contrast, Plaintiffs stand merely to receive less funding – 30 percent, by their estimation (although the true amount presently remains unclear) – than they would under the interpretation of the CARES Act.”

Billions Lost

ANCs do not operate as sovereign communities, nor are they engaged in any form of gaming. The closing of tribal casinos has put approximately 300,000 people out of work, and led to $4.4 billion in lost economic activity.

The tribes that sued argued that Treasury is ready to give as much as $3 billion of the $8 billion to Alaska Native Corporations. Their lawsuit challenged that “these state-chartered and state-regulated private business corporations … conduct business worldwide through dozens of subsidiaries and are not ‘Tribal governments.'”

Hunt disagreed, saying, “Alaska Native Corporations qualify as Tribal governments, eligible for payments under Title V of the CARES Act.”