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Some Tribes Might Miss Out On Federal Funds Because Of Tight Deadline

Teresa Cotsirilos

A deadline for tribes to apply for federal funding is coming up at the end of the week, and Calista Corporation worries that tribal leaders don’t have enough time or internet bandwidth to meet it.

President Trump passed a $2 trillion stimulus package earlier this month to provide economic relief during the coronavirus pandemic. Federally recognized tribes, of which there are 229 in Alaska, will receive $8 billion of that, but the deadline to apply for funding is tight.

"Calista heard on Monday, April 13, that the deadline was this Friday, April 17," said Thom Leonard, spokesperson for Calista Corporation. The Native corporation serves about 30,000 Yup’ik and Athabascan shareholders in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

The short turnaround time means that the number of applicants at one time could crash the website, and low internet bandwidth in rural Alaska means that some tribes might not even have a shot.

"We fully expected the treasury website to get hammered," Leonard said.

The application asks tribes to list the land they own. Due to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, that makes answering the question hard because it’s unclear which land claims qualify.

"The land-based question hasn’t been fully defined. Our understanding is that it essentially means the land granted to them under ANCSA, so the amount of land granted to them under ANCSA under each tribe and village corporation. There have been questions whether that includes subsurface estate," Leonard said.

Leonard said that Calista has contacted the Bureau of Indian Affairs to express their concerns. He says that so far, it doesn’t seem like they will extend the deadline. Meanwhile, Leonard says that Calista has reached out to tribal governments to help them through the application process. It's unclear if Calista is applying for some of the funds. 

The application is due on Friday, April 17 at 7:59 p.m. Eastern Time.