Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee Focuses on COVID-19 Outbreak; April 2 and 9 Consultations Set
Consultations to Discuss Releasing $8 Billion to Tribes
- The Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee (TTAC) on March 31, 2020, held its meeting via a teleconference to accommodate for the increasing number of stay-in-place and other orders restricting movement in an effort to flatten the curve of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
- In addition to regular TTAC business, the committee focused a large portion of the meeting on the impacts that COVID-19 is having on the generation of revenue in Indian Country.
- The U.S. Department of the Treasury and U.S. Department of the Interior announced two consultations with tribal governments on April 2 and April 9 to ensure that the funding appropriated by Congress through the recently enacted COVID-19 legislative package is allocated by the federal agencies in a way that meets the needs of all tribes.
The Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee (TTAC) on March 31, 2020, convened a teleconference instead of meeting in Washington, D.C., to accommodate for the increasing number of stay-in-place and other orders restricting movement in an effort to flatten the curve of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Although the TTAC addressed business as usual, the committee also focused a large portion of the meeting on the impacts that COVID-19 is having on the generation of revenue in Indian Country. After Congress enacted its third COVID-19 legislative package, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and U.S. Department of the Interior announced that they will hold two consultations with tribal governments on April 2 and April 9 to ensure that the funding appropriated by Congress is allocated by the federal agencies in a way that meets the needs of all tribes.
TTAC Meeting Summary
After remarks by TTAC Chairwoman Lacey Horn and Designated Federal Officer Krishna Vallabhaneni, and an opening prayer by Ron Allen, each of the three TTAC subcommittees provided an update.
The General Welfare Exclusion Subcommittee, led by Allen and Sharon Edenfield, proposed a three-step Work Plan for 2020, with a goal of presenting its recommendations to the TTAC in November:
- Step 1 (June 1 – July 3): Solicit information from stakeholders on relevant definitions in the Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act of 2014 (e.g., the meaning of "lavish or extravagant") and guidelines for training Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents on tribal issues.
- Step 2 (July 6 – Sept. 30): Review and analyze the information collected during Step 1.
- Step 3 (Oct. 1 – Nov. 13): Prepare and present recommendations to the TTAC.
The Subcommittee also appointed two additional members and one ad hoc member to help with its work. The new Subcommittee members are Robyn Delfino, tribal treasurer for the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, and Ken Parsons, partner with Holland & Knight. The ad hoc member is Lawrence Stafford, member at large for the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria. These individuals join the three previously appointed Subcommittee members: Sam Cohen, government affairs officer for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians; Wendy Pearson, of counsel for Hobbs Straus, Dean & Walker; and Robert Yoder, partner for Yoder and Langford.
The Dual Taxation Subcommittee, led by Lynn Malerba and Rebecca Benally, reported that it has been collecting information from Indian Country on the impacts of dual taxation and plans to propose solutions to the TTAC.
The Tribal Pensions Subcommittee, led by Patricia King and Eugene Magnusson (absent), appointed Carl Artman, staff attorney for the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, as its technical advisor. The Subcommittee is also putting together a Work Plan to present to the TTAC.
The TTAC also addressed a number of COVID-19-specific issues. During this portion of the teleconference, Vallabhaneni was joined by Telly Meier and Janine Cook of the IRS to address the ongoing efforts of the IRS and the Treasury Department to release timely guidance. In particular, the agencies are looking at how the new employment tax credits apply to tribal governments. Other guidance on COVID-19 issues impacting tribes will follow as soon as possible.
However, in the meantime, tribes should begin considering how they can best utilize the following efforts passed in the third COVID-19 stimulus package enacted into law on March 27, 2020:
- $8 billion set aside from the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund, for direct payments to Indian tribes for additional expenditures not accounted for in their budgets and incurred after March 1, 2020.
- Makes Indian tribes eligible, along with businesses and state, local and territorial governments, for up to $500 billion in loans, loan guarantees and other investments from the Treasury Department's Coronavirus Stabilization Fund, all subject to repayment and specific limitations.
- Makes tribal small businesses with 500 or fewer employees eligible for the $10 billion made available for U.S. Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) grants.
- Makes tribal small businesses eligible to receive a loan up to $10 million through the Paycheck Protection Program if they have 500 or fewer employees or otherwise meet industry-specific size limitations to cover the costs of payroll, providing healthcare benefits, employee salaries, interest on any mortgage obligations, rent, utilities and interest on any other debt incurred before the covered period.
- Provides funds necessary to cover one-half of Unemployment Insurance Benefit costs charged to a tribal government employer if it has elected to participate in a state unemployment compensation fund as a reimbursing employer.
The TTAC also received written comments from Calista Corporation, White Mountain Apache Tribe, Redding Rancheria and San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians. These comments will be published on the TTAC's website. Additional public comments were made during the teleconference by representatives of the San Carlos Housing Authority, Navajo Nation, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Lummi Nation and Native CDFI Network.
TTAC will hold its next meeting on Sept. 16, 2020. Registration is available through the Treasury Department.
What Should Tribal Leaders Do Next?
- Participate in the April 2 and April 9, 2020, consultation to provide Treasury Department and Interior Department representatives with your input on developing a method or formula to allocate the $8 billion set-aside of the Coronavirus Relief Fund for tribal governments. The Interior Department has provided call-in information for the consultations.
- Provide written comments to Treasury and Interior Departments to ensure that funds are fairly distributed to tribes and can be used flexibly. Written comments must be submitted to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org on or before April 13, 2020.
- For more information on COVID-19, visit Holland & Knight's COVID-19 response page for the latest updates on COVID-19 legislation, regulations and resources for businesses. This page is updated regularly and contains nearly 100 publications.
For more information on tribal provisions in the COVID-19 package and for assistance in accessing federal funding, please contact the authors of this alert.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that the situation surrounding COVID-19 is evolving and that the subject matter discussed in these publications may change on a daily basis. Please contact your responsible Holland & Knight lawyer or the author of this alert for timely advice.
Information contained in this alert is for the general education and knowledge of our readers. It is not designed to be, and should not be used as, the sole source of information when analyzing and resolving a legal problem. Moreover, the laws of each jurisdiction are different and are constantly changing. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, we urge you to consult competent legal counsel.