An academic study released Monday suggests the federal government is using a flawed formula to distribute stimulus money to American Indian tribes.
Money is supposed to be based on each tribe's population, but the Department of Treasury is using "arbitrary and capricious" data that results in over- and under-representation of tribes' actual members, according to a team of researchers from Harvard, the University of Arizona and UCLA.
The calculation benefited Colorado's two tribes.
The formula used by the Treasury for distributing aid from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act is same one used by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to distribute Indian Housing Block Grant money, the researchers noted.
Some tribes, therefore, were reported as having no population, because they didn't participate in the government housing program. The government's numbers, then, were "materially inconsistent with both US Census Department data and tribes’ own data," researches said.
"Thus, the case is strong that Treasury should have used data on each tribe’s population of enrolled tribal citizens," the university researchers aid. "These counts were requested by Treasury and submitted by tribes in mid-April but were not subsequently used by the Department to allocate the CARES Act funds."
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who grew up in Rifle and once practiced law in Denver, announced in May that the first $4.8 billion of $8 billion in stimulus had been dispersed for the 574 federally recognized tribes, based on their population.
The complete study is available by clicking here.
Colorado has two federally recognized tribes, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.
According to the state, the Southern Ute, based in Ignacio, has 1,510 enrolled members residing on and off the reservation, while the Mountain Ute tribe has 2,134 enrolled members based in the communities of Towaoc in Colorado and the White Mesa community in Blanding, Utah.
The Southern Utes came out well ahead in the Treasury Department's calculation, receiving $6.7 million. Using the HUD calculation it would have received a little over $3 million, according to the numbers released by researchers.
The Mountain Utes received $5.9 million in stimulus versus $4.4 million based on the HUD figures.