Economic & Community Development

Eric C. Henson, Miriam R. Jorgensen, Joseph P. Kalt, and Isabelle G. Leonaitis. 11/2021. Assessing the U.S. Treasury Department's Allocations of Funding for Tribal Governments under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. View Report (PDF)Abstract

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“the Act” or “ARPA”) has resulted in the single largest infusion of federal funding for Native America in U.S. history. The core of this funding is $20 billion for the more than 570 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments. As required by the Act, the Department of the Treasury (“Treasury” or “the Department”) devised and has now implemented a formula for allocating these monies. In this report, the authors find that the allocations that have been made are grossly inequitable and contrary to the policy objectives of Congress, the Biden Administration, and the Treasury Department itself.

This study uses publicly available information to estimate enrollment and employment counts for tribes. These figures are only estimates created for the express purpose of analyzing the appropriateness of the US Department of the Treasury’s American Rescue Plan Act allocations. Our estimates have not and cannot be verified against actual enrollment or employment data submitted to the Department of Treasury by each tribe.  We believe the estimates are as accurate as possible and reliable for the purpose of assessing the relative positions of tribes under Treasury’s ARPA allocations, but should not be extracted and used as accurate for any individual tribe or for any purpose other than how they are used here.


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Eric C. Henson, Megan M. Hill, Miriam R. Jorgensen, and Joseph P. Kalt. 4/2021. Recommendations for Allocation and Administration of American Rescue Plan Act Funding for American Indian Tribal Governments. View Report (PDF)Abstract

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provides the largest infusion of federal funding for Indian Country in the history of the United States. More than $32 billion dollars is directed toward assisting American Indian nations and communities as they work to end and recover from the devastating COVID19 pandemic – which was made worse in Indian Country precisely because such funding is long overdue.

In this policy brief, we set out recommendations which we hope will promote the wise and productive allocation of ARPA funds to the nation’s 574 federally recognized American Indian tribes. We see ARPA as a potential “Marshall Plan” for the revitalization of Indian nations. The Act holds the promise of materially remedying at least some of the gross, documented, and long-standing underfunding of federal obligations and responsibilities in Indian Country. Yet, fulfilling that promise requires that the federal government expeditiously and wisely allocate ARPA funds to tribes, and that tribes efficiently and effectively deploy those funds to maximize their positive impacts on tribal communities.

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Eric C. Henson, Miriam R. Jorgensen, Megan M. Hill, and Joseph P. Kalt. 7/2020. Emerging Stronger than Before: Guidelines for the Federal Role in American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes' Recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic. View Report (PDF)Abstract

The COVID‐19 pandemic has wrought havoc in Indian Country. While the American people as a whole have borne extreme pain and suffering, and the transition back to “normal” will be drawn out and difficult, the First Peoples of America arguably have suffered the most severe and most negative consequences of all. The highest rates of positive COVID‐19 cases have been found among American Indian tribes, but that is only part of the story.

Even before the pandemic, the average household income for Native Americans living on Indian reservations was barely half the U.S. average. Then the pandemic effectively shut down the economies of many tribal nations. In the process, tribal governments’ primary sources of the funding – which are needed to fight the pandemic and to meet citizens’ needs – have been decimated.

As with the rest of the U.S., emergency and interim support from the CARES Act and other federal measures have helped to dampen the social and economic harm of the COVID‐19 crisis in Indian Country. Yet this assistance has come to the country’s 574 federally recognized Indian tribes with litigation‐driven delay and counterproductive strings attached, and against a pre‐ pandemic background characterized by federal government underfunding and neglect – especially as compared to the funding provided and attention paid to state and local governments.

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Eric C. Henson, Megan M. Hill, Miriam R. Jorgensen, and Joseph P. Kalt. 7/2020. Federal COVID-19 Response Funding for Tribal Governments: Lessons from the CARES Act. View Report (PDF)Abstract

The federal response to the COVID‐19 pandemic has played out in varied ways over the past several months. For Native nations, the CARES Act (i.e., the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) has been the most prominent component of this response to date. Title V of the Act earmarked $8 billion for tribes and was allocated in two rounds, with many disbursements taking place in May and June of this year.

This federal response has been critical for many tribes because of the lower socio‐economic starting points for their community members as compared to non‐Indians. Even before the pandemic, the average income of a reservation‐resident Native American household was barely half that of the average U.S. household. Low average incomes, chronically high unemployment rates, and dilapidated or non‐existent infrastructure are persistent challenges for tribal communities and tribal leaders. Layering extremely high coronavirus incidence rates (and the effective closure of many tribal nations’ entire economies2) on top of these already challenging circumstances presented tribal governments with a host of new concerns. In other words, at the same time tribal governments’ primary resources were decimated (i.e., the earnings of tribal governmental gaming and non‐gaming enterprises dried up), the demands on tribes increased. They needed these resources to fight the pandemic and to continue to meet the needs of tribal citizens.

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Randall K.Q. Akee, Eric C. Henson, Miriam R. Jorgensen, and Joseph P. Kalt. 5/2020. Dissecting the US Treasury Department’s Round 1 Allocations of CARES Act COVID‐19 Relief Funding for Tribal Governments. View Report (PDF)Abstract

This study dissects the US Department of the Treasury’s formula for distributing first-round CARES Act funds to Indian Country. The Department has indicated that its formula is intended to allocate relief funds based on tribes’ populations, but the research team behind this report finds that Treasury has employed a population data series that produces arbitrary and capricious “over-” and “under-representations” of tribes’ enrolled citizens.

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Randall K.Q. Akee, Joseph P. Kalt, Eric C. Henson, and Miriam Jorgensen. 4/2020. Policy Memo Regarding the Allocation of COVID-19 Response Funds to American Indian Nations. View Report (PDF)Abstract

The COVID-19 crisis poses an immediate threat to three decades of improvement in economic conditions across Indian Country. Federal policies of tribal self-determination through self government have gradually, if unevenly, allowed economic development to take hold in Indian County. Nevertheless, the poverty gap for American Indians is large and hard to close. American Indian/Alaska Native household incomes remain barely half that of the typical household in the US. Tribes now routinely undertake and self-fund the full array of basic governmental services – from law enforcement and public safety to social services and educational support – that we expect any state or local government to provide.

Tribes lack the traditional tax bases enjoyed by state and local governments. Tribal enterprise revenues – both gaming and non-gaming – are tribes’ effective tax bases. Prior to the total shutdown of their casinos, tribes’ gaming enterprises alone were channeling more than $12.5 billion per year into tribal government programs and services . No tribal casinos are operating at this time. The same applies to many non-gaming enterprises and many tribal government programs. The COVID-19 crisis is devastating tribes’ abilities to fund their provision of basic governmental services and forcing tribes to make painful decisions to lay off employees, drop workers’ insurance coverage, deplete assets, and/or take on more debt.

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2018. Quapaw Nation Agricultural Programs. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Like many Native nations, the Quapaw Nation relies on gaming income to fund government operations and to create employment opportunities for tribal citizens. But tribal leaders are also committed to diversifying the economy and limiting dependence on casino revenues. Drawing on its people’s farming heritage, the Nation has built an array of businesses that reduce reliance on external food sources and provide tribal citizens and their neighbors with healthy, locally raised food—a win for Quapaw economic development and for Indigenous food sovereignty.

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2018. Quapaw Nation Agricultural Programs | Quapaw Nation. See Full Report (PDF)Abstract

The inside of a greenhouseLike many Native nations, the Quapaw Nation relies on gaming income to fund government operations and to create employment opportunities for tribal citizens. But tribal leaders are also committed to diversifying the economy and limiting dependence on casino revenues. Drawing on its people’s farming heritage, the Nation has built an array of businesses that reduce reliance on external food sources and provide tribal citizens and their neighbors with healthy, locally raised food—a win for Quapaw economic development and for Indigenous food sovereignty.

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U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey. 2017. “My Tribal Area”. View Report (PDF)Abstract

The U.S. Census Bureau collects data for the American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) population and publishes specific counts, estimates, and statistics. My Tribal Area gives you quick and easy access to selected statistics from the American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS provides detailed demographic, social, economic, and housing statistics every year for the nation’s communities. 

2016. Alaska Rural Utility Collaborative | Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. View Report (PDF)Abstract

Two people standing in front of plumbing infrastructureIndoor plumbing is a basic amenity that most Americans take for granted. In parts of rural Alaska, however, providing water and sewer service is not an easy task. The harsh climate requires special adaptations, costs are high, and many small communities lack the expertise needed to manage complex systems. To address these challenges, the Alaska Rural Utility Collaborative facilitates cooperation among Alaska Native villages to assist them with the operations of their own water and sewer systems as effectively and inexpensively as possible.

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2016. Čáw Pawá Láakni - They Are Not Forgotten | Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. View Report (PDF)Abstract

Person holding up a large research book with post-it tabs in an office settingContemporary place names throughout the United States reflect the history of colonization. The explorers and settlers who named mountains, rivers, and other natural features after themselves or their heroes were unaware or indifferent to the fact that waterways, features of the land, and places already had ancient names. The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have undertaken an ambitious project to organize, give preeminence to, and systematically disseminate their knowledge of the land.

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2015. Ho-Chunk Village | Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. View Report (PDF)Abstract

Tribal statues in foreground with housing development in background.Like many other Native nations, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska grapples with a lack of housing for its people, especially for the tribe’s rapidly growing middle class. In response, community leaders developed Ho-Chunk Village, a 40-acre master planned community that is transforming the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska by purposefully providing home-ownership opportunities, integrated rentals for elders, and space for businesses in a walkable community. In developing Ho-Chunk Village, the Winnebago Tribe is showcasing how a tribal government, nonprofit, and tribal enterprise can work together in creative ways.

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Randall K.Q. Akee and Jonathan B. Taylor. 5/15/2014. Social and Economic Change on American Indian Reservations.Abstract
A Databook of the US Censuses and the American Community Survey 1990-2010
2014. Lummi Wetland and Habitat Mitigation Bank | Lummi Nation. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Three professionals docking a boat.Tribal land is a scarce resource, and tribal leaders often face competing demands concerning land use. Especially pressing are the potential tradeoffs between development and environmental stewardship. The Lummi Nation was eager to develop housing and commercial properties but wanted to make sure that these projects would not damage ecologically sensitive areas on the reservation. To help manage development on its lands, the nation created the first tribally operated commercial wetland mitigation bank in the country. The Lummi Wetland and Habitat Mitigation Bank sells mitigation credits to both tribal and non-tribal projects, helping the nation balance its development and preservation goals. 

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2014. Owe'neh Bupingeh Rehabilitation Project | Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Three construction workers leaning on metal scaffolding on site for tribal home renovations.Many American families dream of owning a single family home in a suburban subdivision. Yet on tribal lands this type of housing can have devastating social and cultural consequences— especially for a community like Ohkay Owingeh, whose residents traditionally lived in high density housing surrounding central plazas. At Ohkay Owingeh, US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policies supported the construction of new suburban subdivisions over the rehabilitation of traditional pueblo dwellings—and homes at the pueblo’s core that had been occupied for generations slowly were being abandoned. The pueblo undertook to revitalize the historic village center in a way that celebrates traditional culture, bringing life back to the plazas that are the cultural heart of the nation. 


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2013. All-Stars Profile: Archie Hendricks, Sr. Skilled Nursing Home and Tohono O'odham Hospice | Tohono O'odham Nation. See Full Report (PDF)Abstract

For many years, due to the Tohono O’odham Nation’s location in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and the sparse population, Nation members did not have access to reservation-based long-term or post-hospital care services. This was particularly true for O’odham elders. Elders admitted to the Sells Area Indian Health Service Hospital for acute care who subsequently required follow up long-term skilled nursing care or a place for post-hospital recovery were discharged to nursing home facilities in the Tucson, Arizona area.

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2010. CTUIR Public Transit | Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. View Report (PDF)Abstract

Small twenty-something seat bus with front sign that says "Walla Walla Whistler".The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation have become one of the largest employers in Eastern Oregon, and along with economic success came the return of tribal citizens. Nonetheless, a lack of transportation options prevented tribal citizens from taking advantage of local employment opportunities. In 2001, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation Public Transit was started to address the need for public transportation. The comprehensive Confederated Tribes Public Transit program includes both a free bus and a taxi voucher service, encompassing a large service area within and beyond the reservation boundaries, which is interconnected with other non-tribal regional systems. Remarkably, the transit system has helped alleviate poverty, promoted stronger inter-governmental relations, and facilitated community engagement.

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2010. Oneida Advocacy through Investment Holdings | Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. View Report (PDF)Abstract

Today, the leaders of the Oneida Nation Trust Advocacy Department are leaders in the Socially Responsible Investing (or SRI) movement. Oneida is now positioned as an activist and is having a positive impact of environmental concerns, human rights, corporate culture, Indigenous issues, and the entire SRI community—all the while earning a market return on its portfolio. To expand their impact, SRI leaders at Oneida have provided education and training to committed Oneida citizens who are, with newly raised awareness, more actively managing their own investments. To expand the impact of SRI across Indian Country, the Oneida developed a guidebook focused on ways other tribes can integrate socially responsible investing in their portfolios.

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2010. Project Pueblo | Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. View Report (PDF)Abstract

Project Pueblo is a top-to-bottom engagement in the nation-building process. From 2006-2010, the Tribe has developed and undertaken a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, a new set of economic and business policies, new business and commercial laws and regulations, and a radically new mindset geared toward long-term planning, strategic thinking, and wide-ranging evaluation. In sum, Project Pueblo has reinvigorated the methods by which governance and business is conducted at Ysleta del Sur.

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2008. Archie Hendricks, Sr. Skilled Nursing Facility and Tohono O’odham Hospice | Tohono O'odham Nation. View Report (PDF)Abstract

For decades Tohono O’odham elders in need of skilled nursing had to move far away from family and friends to receive care, or stay home and forgo long term care services. However, with the opening of the Archie Hendricks, Sr. Skilled Nursing Facility, O’odham elders can now remain in the community. Combining today’s latest technologies and world-class clinical care with traditional values, the nursing home has become one of the finest elder care facilities anywhere in the United States.

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