Over the last couple of weeks, tribal governments have begun receiving their share of the $20 billion in Fiscal Recovery Funds provided under the American Rescue Plan Act. The funds are intended to support the efforts of tribal governments as they respond to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on tribal members, communities, and businesses. ARPA authorizes tribal governments to use their allocations:
- To respond to the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts, including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality.
- To respond to workers performing essential work during the Covid-19 public health emergency by providing premium pay to eligible workers.
- For the provision of government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue due to the Covid–19 public health emergency relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency.
- To make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury provided guidance on the use of the funds through its Interim Final Rule, FAQs, and letters to tribal leaders. Within the broad categories above, tribal governments have considerable flexibility in the use of funds to address the diverse needs of their communities.
For example, tribes may use the funds to develop vaccination programs, create tribal member assistance programs, cover certain payroll and employee benefits costs, establish small business loan programs, replace lost public sector revenue and develop tribal infrastructure. Treasury guidance does, however, impose some limitations that tribes should be careful to avoid. In addition, any funds not obligated and expended by December 31, 2026 must be forfeited and returned to Treasury.
Tribes must apply for Fiscal Recovery Funds and are eligible to receive up to two disbursements, primarily based on tribally certified enrollment numbers and employment numbers. The first payment window expired on June 21, 2021 and the second payment based on employment will be open via Treasury’s Submission Portal until July 9, 2021.
Patterson Earnhart Real Bird & Wilson LLP is actively monitoring Treasury guidance updates and is ready to assist you and your tribe obtain your Fiscal Recovery Funds and develop similar programs funded by the ARPA. To learn more about this issue and how we can assist, contact attorney Jeremy Patterson in our Colorado office at (303) 926-5292.