Kiowa CARES Act money can now be distributed
Kiowa CARES Act money can now be distributed

CARNEGIE — An injunction barring the Kiowa Tribe from spending its CARES Act money has been formally lifted.

With the Kiowa Indian Council approving a budget, Judge Shannon Edwards with the Southern Plains Court of Indian Offenses dissolved an injunction Aug. 26 that was blocking the tribe from distributing any of its Covid-19 relief funds.

Moving forward, the tribe will be able to provide up to $1,000 to Kiowa citizens to help with food, utility bills and expenses associated with distance learning. Tribal citizens are still asked to include a needs assessment to show how they have been impacted financially by the ongoing pandemic. Applications that were pending at the time of Edwards’ initial order in July will still be processed and do not need to be resubmitted.

The tribe received more than $19 million in federal relief funds, which the executive branch categorized as grant money. In late May, the executive branch formally rolled out a relief plan for the money that required Kiowa citizens to complete a needs assessment before receiving funds to cover COVID-related expenses under specific categories, such as utilities, groceries, housing, distance-learning or fleeing a domestic violence situation.

However, with the Kiowa constitution requiring all funds be accounted for in the tribe’s annual budget and approved by the Kiowa Indian Council, the legislature sought and won an injunction, temporarily blocking additional funds from being spent.

Under guidance issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of the Interior, tribes are allowed to use CARES Act money to provide direct cash assistance to their citizens. However, those funds have to be disbursed based on documented need that falls within specific guidelines and must be spent by the end of the year. Per capita checks are not allowed.

“We will follow all CARES Act regulations and our constitution closely while disbursing funds as quickly as possible to ensure the best results for our tribe,” Chairman Matthew Komalty said in a statement.