The U.S. Treasury Department must release $679 million in coronavirus relief funding for tribes that it intended to withhold while a court challenge over the agency’s initial round of payments to tribal governments played out in court, a federal judge has ruled.
The judge says the agency doesn’t have discretion to withhold the money that is part of a federal relief package that included $8 billion for tribes.
He ordered the Treasury Department to disburse it among tribal governments.
The judge said no court order prevents the Treasury Department from releasing the $679 million.
He did allow the department to withhold $7.65 million that the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation of Kansas tribe alleges it was shortchanged in the initial distribution of funding.
The Prairie Band said the Treasury Department should have relied on the tribe’s own enrollment figures to calculate its share of the money.
The Treasury Department said the $679 million withholding would cover the Kansas tribe if the tribe wins its case and any other tribal governments that might raise challenges.