Dear USET/USET SPF Family,
Today the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) communicated to Tribal Leaders that technical assistance operations for COVID-19 recovery programs are in danger of being scaled back if Congress does not enact a Continuing Resolution (CR) and repurpose funds from other pandemic programs (e.g., unallocated pandemic funding for the airline industry). Currently, Congress must pass a CR before midnight on September 30th to avert a government shutdown. Treasury has been working with Congress to seek flexibility in how administrative funds can be used across recovery programs, which would preserve its ability to provide support across recovery programs without affecting any of Treasury’s operations. These programs include the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, the Homeowner Assistance Fund, and the Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund.
If Congress does not repurpose certain pandemic funds, then funding shortfalls will have significant effects on Treasury’s ability to provide support to recipients of its recovery programs. Treasury is preparing to adjust its operations in ways that will impact Tribal Nation recovery fund recipients. Regarding the recovery programs listed above, Treasury is in the process of—
- Ending its call center support, which has provided an entry point for questions from recipients facing issues, including around payments and reporting. This shutdown will begin going into effect in October.
- Sharply curtailing e-mail response operations, limiting Treasury’s ability to respond to most questions that arrive in the recovery program inboxes.
- Reducing reporting and recipient monitoring footprint, slowing Treasury’s responses to incoming questions from jurisdictions and potentially impacting resolution of Single Audits.
- Instituting a hiring freeze of federal staff for these programs, limiting Treasury’s ability to participate in direct engagement with recipients or resolve ongoing policy questions that arise.
On September 16, 2022, USET SPF joined an Inter-Tribal Partner Organization Letter urging Congress to support increased flexibility for recovery fund use by Treasury by repurposing certain unallocated pandemic funds to provide technical assistance to Tribal Nations and citizens to navigate the various recovery programs. We also urged Congress to include a one-year extension of the first tranche of Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA1) funding in the CR. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 appropriated $25 billion for the delivery of emergency rental assistance to eligible households facing unemployment or other financial hardship due to COVID-19. Treasury allocated these funds to Tribal governments in January 2021, but many Tribal governments needed to build rental assistance programs before dollars could be obligated. Now, approximately 65% of ERA1’s Tribal government recipients stand to have these funds recouped by the federal government if they are not obligated by September 30th. An extension of the spending deadline would allow our governments to continue to provide rental assistance to our citizens, which remains a critical priority under current economic and public health conditions.
We strongly encourage our member Tribal Nations to contact your representatives and senators and urge them to include flexibility for recovery fund use by Treasury and a one-year spending extension to Treasury’s ERA1 as soon as possible.
For more information, please contact Brian Howard, USET SPF Senior Policy Analyst, at firstname.lastname@example.org.