US treasury elaborates on per capita payments to tribal citizens just days after MCN sees protests on complex due to CARE’s funding
OKMULGEE, Oklahoma– Approximately 100 peaceful demonstrators gathered at the bow shoot fields on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation tribal complex on June 22 to voice their dissatisfaction with the amount of CARES Act funding that was approved for individual relief in an Extraordinary Session on June 11.
MCN Principal Chief David Hill and Second Chief Del Beaver attended the demonstration and heard the concerns of citizens and announced some changes to the allocated funds.
Children, elders, veterans and disabled citizens were among the group who took turns expressing their opinions about the recently passed legislation, it’s designated allocations, the qualification process and even the how tribal leaders made the decisions surrounding the bills allocations.
According to Principal Chief Hill, the qualifying process for obtaining the Coronavirus relief funds were hinged upon the tribes enrollment, past year’s expenditures, land base, and employees.
Once the tribe received the funding tribal officials were tasked with verifying the amounts were correct before doing anything.
“Knowing the government, I wanted to make sure what we received was correct,” Chief Hill said. “Once we confirmed it we formed a team to figure out the best way to do this and stay within the guidelines.”
Chief Hill said that he asked for the programs allocations to be reviewed again on June 19.
“The one that is $150, we did move it up to $500,” Chief Hill said.
Citizens asked about whether or not the losses for the tribes revenue generating casinos was something the tribe could recoup through insurance.
Chief Hill confirmed that the Muscogee (Creek) Nation was denied an insurance claim on those loses but did file suit along with other tribes in order to determine if the loses could be recouped through a claim process.
Just before 8 a.m., Lighthorse officers were posted at various entrances to the tribal complex. According to Lighthorse, their purpose for presence was to direct traffic, and provide assistance if needed. Organizers of the protest told media some of the protesters were turned away.
The demonstration began around 8 a.m. and was wrapped up by noon. The Principal Chiefs Office provided protestors with several cases of water, ice, masks, and hand sanitizer. Dustin store sent a donation of donuts for protesters.
According to Lisa Long, a Muscogee (Creek) Citizen who lives in Edmond, there were a few hurdles early in the morning as protestors were arriving and setting up.
She said her main intention was for the administration to hear the concerns of the citizens.
“With the CARE’s Act, for once our tribal governments have a chance to help us all and the thing is that we’ve all been affected,” Long said. “Yet they chose to pump all these funds into the casinos and businesses for lost wages.”
Protesters were not happy with the qualification process for the $1,500 Coronavirus Citizen support program. Many voiced concerns and even carried signs stating “Tired of jumping through hoops.”
The administration has maintained that it must be prepared to provide documentation on expenditures and be prepared for an audit of the relief funds.
Some protestors stated that their situations were not always easy to document for qualification purposes.
Long said the hardship grant, originally allocated at $150.00 was underwhelming in light of the hardships people have faced during COVID-19.
“Out of $282.2 million, that’s like throwing us all a dollar and saying good luck,” Long said.
By the end of the day on June 22, a website with instructions was published with applications for the hardship programs.
On June 24, the U.S. Treasury published more guidance on the funding stating that a per capita distribution of funds was not allowable. It further explained that direct citizen assistance should have a determination process.
‘Governments have discretion to determine how to tailor assistance programs they establish in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency,’ the document said. ‘However, such a program should be structured in such a manner as will ensure that such assistance is determined to be necessary in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency and otherwise satisfies the requirements of the CARES Act and other applicable law.’
‘For example, a per capita payment to residents of a particular jurisdiction without an assessment of individual need would not be an appropriate use of payments from the Fund.’
Guidelines indicated that governmental entities could distribute relief through programs and would have scope and authority to shape programs to fit their needs.
Citizens wishing to apply can find more information and applications at mcn-nsn.gov. Citizens who do not have access to Internet and need a mailed application may request one by calling 918-549-2440.