‘ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM’: Tribal per capita payments under the American Rescue Plan Act

Per capita payment webinar screenshot
Per capita payment webinar screenshot

Chairman Rodney Butler of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Chairwoman Cathy Chavers of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, and President Kevin Killer of the Oglala Sioux Tribe highlighted how their tribes are handling per capita payments in a Harvard Ash Center webinar moderated by Karen Diver, the former chairwoman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. With some tribes getting millions and even hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of recent pandemic-related funding, the matter of direct per capita payments to tribal members and how tribes are managing them have emerged as major issues.

As indicated through various news articles, press releases, and social media posts, some tribes have already distributed millions of these dollars directly to tribal citizens. Others have not made distributions yet, and some are still deciding whether and how to do so. Meanwhile, other tribes have decided to give a portion of the monies they have received and will decide whether to give more in the future.

The decisions are complex, tribal leaders and advocates highlighted during a recent meeting of the Harvard Ash Center, which has explored the $20 billion in American Rescue Plan Act distributions to tribes from the U.S. Department of Treasury through a series of webinars in recent months.

“There’s a lot of authority and decision making authority that tribes have over these funds, but that also raises, in a sense, a problem for tribes,” Miriam Jorgensen, research director for the Native Nations Institute at the University of […]

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