ANCs Appeal to High Court in Latest Coronavirus Relief Fund Development

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ANCs Appeal to High Court in Latest Coronavirus Relief Fund Development

October 23, 2020

On Wednesday, October 21, 2020 the Alaska Native Village Corporation Association, Inc., et al,. filed a petition for the writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States to appeal the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in the case Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation et al. v. Steven T. Mnuchin. At stake is the eligibility of Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) to receive funds from the $8 billion set aside for tribal governments in the Title V. Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) within the CARES Act.

Congress made funds eligible to the governing bodies of any "Indian Tribe" as defined by the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. ISDEAA's definition includes ANCs and is the focus of the debate on Congress' intent and purpose for emergency aid.

The DC District Court of Appeals held that ANCs are not eligible recipients from this fund and not within the definition of "tribal government" in this statue because they are not "federally recognized," overturning the previous ruling from District Court Judge Mehta from June 26, 2020.

The petitioners hold that the decision to use the ISDEAA definition of "Indian Tribe" for the purposes of the CRF indicates Congress' clear intent to include ANCs as eligible recipients.

In order for the Supreme Court to rule on the case, the Court must grant a writ of certiorari. This means 4 out of the 9 justices must agree to hear the case before it can proceed. If the court denies to grant a writ of certiorari, the lower court's decision will stand.
 

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Currently, the CRF covered period ends on December 30, 2020. Without a speedy resolution or extension of the covered period, it is uncertain if the amounts reserved by the U.S. Department of Treasury for ANCs will ever be distributed.

The ANCSA Regional Association and the Alaska Native Village Corporation Association (ANVCA) issued the following in their statement on the appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States:

"The ANCSA Regional Association and Alaska Native Village Corporation Association vowed that we would continue to fight for the critical relief assistance our people need to survive this pandemic. Today, as we file a Petition for Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States, we have made good on that promise to our Alaska Native brothers and sisters.
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The lower court’s decision also undoes nearly five decades of legal precedent treating Alaska Natives and Native Americans in the lower 48 fairly and equally. When Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) in 1971 it mandated that ‘Alaska Natives shall remain eligible for all Federal Indian programs on the same basis as other Native Americans.’ Furthermore, the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) definition of ‘Indian tribe’ has always been understood to authorize ANC participation. Congress carefully worded of Title V of the CARES Act to mirror ISDEAA, making it clear that it intended to render ANCs eligible for CARES Act relief funds."

NAFOA will continue to monitor the unfolding situation, and will continue to communicate with our community if and when the Supreme Court decides to grant the petitioner's writ of certiorari.

For any other questions or concerns, please contact Dante Desiderio at dante@nafoa.org or (202) 631-2003.