Alaska Delegation Welcomes Court Win for Alaska Native Corporations

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan and Congressman Don Young (all R-Alaska) today welcomed the court decision deeming Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) eligible for tribal assistance appropriated through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Today U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ruled that Alaska Native Corporations can receive a share of the $8 billion in funding set aside for Tribal governments that Congress approved in March. 

“When we passed the CARES Act and included $8 billion for tribes within the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund, we fought hard to ensure all tribes were included in the final bill. We also made sure that every Alaska Native entity would be able to expend the available resources necessary to meet the unprecedented public health crisis by including the broad, typically-used, 45-year-old definition of “Indian tribe” which includes Alaska Native Corporations,” said the Alaska Congressional Delegation. “The statute is unequivocal on this point, and we appreciate that the District Court judge now read the law as we wrote it so that Alaska Native communities across the state have the option to use all vehicles available.”

This decision is based on the Indian Self-Determination Act, which is about providing government services to Native people by partnering with Tribes, including ANCs. Congress intended to get these CARES Act funds to the same entities that deliver public services to American Indians and Alaska Natives quickly. This is not a major change in federal Indian law – it is about ensuring an adequate response to the public health crisis in Alaska. 

In April, the delegation sent a letter to the administration calling on the Treasury Department to take into consideration the unique legal framework and circumstances in Alaska. The delegation urged flexibility for each tribe to choose how it receives and administers the payments. Their letter also provides historical background on Alaska regional corporations, which are made eligible for CARES Act assistance through the definition of “Indian tribe” used in the bill.

Also in April, the delegation penned an opinion editorial (Op-Ed) in the Anchorage Daily News to speak to the mischaracterizations of Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs) and explain why ANCs are eligible for funding made available to tribes within the CARES Act.