June 25, 2020
Dear Tribal Member,
On June 15, 2020, the Election Committee received a petition to hold a special election on an initiative which seeks to distribute financial assistance to the tribal membership – $2,000 per adult and $1,000 per child – from the Tribe’s portion of funding from Title V of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”). The Election Committee has determined that the petition satisfies the signature requirements of the Constitution of the Spokane Tribe (“Constitution”). Accordingly, a Special Election will be held on July 11, 2020. A copy of the Petition is attached to this letter.
First, under the CARES Act, the Tribe can only spend Title V money on necessary expenditures incurred due to the COVID pandemic. If CARES Act Title V monies are not spent in accordance with these requirements, the Tribe will be required to pay those funds back to Treasury. Second, Article VIII of the Tribe’s Constitution grants Tribal Council certain power and duties, including the authority to provide financial assistance to tribal members, “to the full extent permitted by Federal Law.” Here, that means complying with the CARES Act, including Title V spending limitations. Third, to avoid federal tax liability to Tribal Members, direct distributions of CARES Act, Title V money must also meet the requirements for the “General Welfare Exclusion” – which excludes certain payments from tribes to their members from federal income taxes, but only if certain requirements are met.
Accordingly, the Tribe is working with a well-respected Indian country auditing firm, REDW, to develop a direct distribution program designed to comply with the CARES Act and other federal law so we can provide financial assistance to the membership while minimizing the risk of paying the money back to Treasury or exposing our members to federal income tax liability. Treasury recently clarified that “a per capita payment to residents of a particular jurisdiction without an assessment of individual need is not an allowable expense,” so any program developed will likely require Tribal Members to complete an application and certify that any direct distributions will be used to pay COVID-related expenses or to backfill COVID-related income losses.
Regardless of the outcome of the July 11, 2020 Special Election, Tribal Council stands ready to authorize direct distributions of CARES Act Title V monies to our membership, consistent with the requirements of our Constitution and federal law. That will likely require your assistance – namely, filling out some paperwork- prior to receiving any direct distributions.
Finally, on June 30, 2020 at 10:00 A.M. we will conduct a video conference via “GoToWebinar” in order to further discuss these important issues. Information on how to attend this informational webinar is attached to this letter. We look forward to answering any questions you may have.
We the undersigned Tribal Citizens of the Spokane Tribe hereby formally request the following issue to be placed as an initiative on a Special General Election Ballot within 45 days in accordance to the Spokane Tribe’s Constitution: Article X Section 4.
An Initiative to immediately distribute through direct payment $2,000 to every Spokane Tribal Citizen age 18 and older as of June 30, 2020 and $1,000 to every Spokane Tribal Citizen 17 and younger as of June 30, 2020 from the recently received $19,000,000 CARES Act Funds to provide our membership with emergency relief assistance during this COVID-19 pandemic. Due to this being relief funding to the tribal citizens, there will be no holds applied.
It’s the opinion of the enrolled Tribal Citizens who have signed this petition that, per Federal Guidance regarding the compliance and tax considerations under the CARES Act for Tribes that the Tribal Business Council may deem it necessary and appropriate to allocate a portion of the CARES Act funds for this emergency distribution and Whereas, the Tribal Business Council can determine the distribution is for the benefit of Tribal Citizens on a nontaxable basis. Further Federal guidance reaffirms that relief funds may be used for distributions to ALL Tribal Citizens by merely documenting the economic necessity. We feel that at the very least approximately 25% of the $19,000,000 received by the Spokane Tribe should be distributed to Every Spokane Tribal Citizen to cover unforeseen and/or emergency needs of ALL its Tribal Citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. The only administratively feasible means of providing emergency relief assistance to ALL of our Tribal Citizens is through direct payment to those that have been impacted by the pandemic. This distribution fulfills the purpose and intent of the CARES Act funding. It is impossible to assist all of our Tribal Citizens without including them in the discussion and/or distribution of these funds. It is the constitutional right of the enrolled Tribal membership to use the petition process to request that important issues that have a direct effect on Tribal health, education and general quality of life be put to a vote.
How to Join the Webinar:
Please register for the Tribal Council Informational Webinar on Initiative Re: CARES Act Funds on Jun 30, 2020 10:00 AM PDT at:
When registering, please use your legal name. This meeting is intended for Tribal Members and authorized staff only. We may dismiss or remove unauthorized individuals from the Webinar.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
If you are using the mobile app the webinar ID is 375-617-347
Ifyou will be joining by phone call 1-415-655-0060 and use the access code 700-473-618 (you will be muted for the duration of the webinar on phone call, however you can still ask questions by calling the number set forth below).
How to Ask Questions During the Webinar:
If you are using the mobile app you can ask questions directly to the moderator who will then convey your questions to Tribal Council.
If you will be joining by phone, you will not be able to ask your questions directly to the group. However, you may call 458-6513 and relay your question or comment to Breann Brigman who will convey the message to the moderator and Tribal Council on your behalf.