Shawnee Tribe Sues Feds Over CARES Act Funds

Jun 26, 2020

The Shawnee Tribe in northeast Oklahoma has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the Trump administration undercounted the tribe, costing them millions of dollars in CARES Act funds.

The lawsuit was filed last Thursday, June 18 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma and claims that the Trump administration used inaccurate data from an Indian Housing Block Grant which says the tribe's population is zero. The Shawnee responded by saying that is a "practical impossibility."

According to court documents, the tribe contacted the Bureau of Indian Affairs per their request on April 8 to provide them with the certified number of 3,021 citizens.

The Shawnee received $100,000, the minimum amount for tribes, instead of $6 million it would have received based on their official enrollment.

"The amount is gravely inadequate to relieve our citizens from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," Shawnee Chief Ben Barnes said in a written statement. "While the filing of a lawsuit is never the preferred course and given the terrible injustice against our Tribe, in this instance, it is the only option available to us."

A temporary restraining order was also filed against Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin saying he used faulty data and refuses to fix the error.

The Shawnee say they made multiple attempts to correct the mistake and sought help through members of U.S. Congress. However, the Teasury advised Oklahoma Representative Markwayne Mullin, who met with the department on behalf of the Shawnee, that if a tribe had an issue with their amount they should file a lawsuit.