Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young commented on a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals determining Alaska Native Corporations are ineligible for tribal assistance under the CARES Act.
The ruling overturns an earlier June 26 ruling by a U.S. District Court that concluded ANCs are eligible for the aid.
“We strongly disagree with the D.C. Circuit Court’s decision today on the status of Alaska Native people under the law,” the delegation said. “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. 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. Furthermore, this decision goes beyond the CARES Act, erasing more than 45 years of precedent and practice, with the potential to undo the tribal systems of health care, housing, education, workforce development, and more in our great state.”
On April 14, the Alaska congressional delegation wrote to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt detailing the unique legal framework and circumstances for tribal entities in Alaska. The letter provided a historical background on Alaska regional corporations, which are made eligible for CARES Act assistance because of the definition of “Indian tribe” used in the bill.
In April, several tribes filed lawsuits to prevent CARES Act funds from being distributed to ANCs. On April 23, the delegation submitted an op-ed to the Anchorage Daily News to correct the mischaracterizations about ANCs and explain why the entities are eligible for CARES Act funds.
On June 26, U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ruled ANCs are eligible for the aid. Judge Mehta based his decision on the definition of “Indian tribe” provided by the 1975 Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act and used in the CARES Act, which included ANCs.