Justice and local Alaska company dispute over COVID assistance
June 25, 2021
The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Alaska Native Corporation is eligible for approximately $500 million in COVID-19 relief funds designated by Congress for Native American tribes.Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote View in Yellen v. Chehalis Reserve Alliance Tribe.
The case requires the court to determine whether the Alaska native company is an “Indian tribe” for the purpose of the CARES Act of 2020. These companies are indigenous companies created by Congress in 1971 to settle land claims by Alaska indigenous people. During the coronavirus pandemic, the Treasury Department determined that these companies can receive funding from the CARES Act allocated to the “tribal government” by Congress. Other Native Americans challenged the decision.
In the 6-3 ruling, the court supported the Treasury Department and Alaska Native Corporations (ANCs).
“The ANC is Self-contained An entity created by federal regulations and grants a large number of special federal benefits as part of a legislative experiment aimed at the unique situation of Alaska cannot be rebuilt anywhere else,” Sotomayor wrote.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett joined all of Sotomayor’s majority opinion, and Justice Samuel Alito Some comments were also added. Justice Neil Gorsuch raised an objection, as did Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Elena Kagan.
The origin of the case can be traced back to the Alaska Native Claim Settlement Act of 1971, when Congress chose to abolish the traditional reservations and instead establish a for-profit ANC in Alaska. After the Bureau of Indian Affairs later confirmed that the Alaska Native Village was still a “federal recognized tribe,” the ANC and the federal recognized tribe now coexist in Alaska. The CARES Act reserves $8 billion for tribes, and these tribes, countries, and Alaska Native companies “are deemed eligible for special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because they are Indians.” The Ministry of Finance and the ANC have argued that this language, especially the ANC, obviously includes them. The challenger argued that because the federal government did not formally “recognize” the ANC, the ANC is not eligible for funding under the CARES Act.
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