Arizona tribes sue: companies shouldn’t get tribal COVID-19 aid money

NAVAJO INDIAN RESERVATION, AZ – DECEMBER 5: School buses carry children across the vast Navajo Nation south of Rock Point December 5, 2002 on the Navajo Indian Reservation, Arizona. Tha Navajo Nation rejects the casino gambling business that has brought riches to many other native American tribes. Navajos equate the hazards created by commercial gambling to that of alchoholism, which the tribe has battled for generations. / Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

By Jeremy Duda | Arizona Mirror

Several Native American nations and other tribal entities from Arizona have joined a lawsuit seeking to block the federal government from giving COVID-19 relief funds designated for tribes to for-profit corporations in Alaska.

The CARES Act, a $2 trillion aid package that Congress passed in March, included $8 billion for tribal governments. The money, which was part of a $150 billion allocation for state, tribal and local government entities, must be used to cover “necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency” caused by the novel coronavirus.

But the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which oversees and distributes those funds, decreed that for-profit corporations associated with tribal members in Alaska are also eligible for the money, leading several tribes to sue in federal court. The Navajo Nation and San Carlos Apache Tribe joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs after it was filed, while the Gila River Indian Community, Inter Tribal Association of Arizona and Arizona Indian Gaming Association have sought to join the case as amici curiae on the side of the plaintiffs.

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