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Quarles & Brady Represents Shawnee Tribe in Successful Bid to Reverse Dismissal of Suit Claiming Improper CARES Act Funding

Milwaukee — The national law firm of Quarles & Brady LLP today announced it had successfully represented the Shawnee Tribe, a federally recognized Indian Tribe in Oklahoma, in reversing a Washington, D.C., federal district court dismissal of the Shawnee Tribe case alleging that the tribe was denied its fair and equitable portion of relief funds set aside for tribes in Title V of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

The original complaint was filed on June 18, 2020, and dismissed by a D.C. federal judge on September 10, 2020. The crux of the case was that the Treasury Department effectively denied the Shawnee Tribe up to $12 million dollars to which it was entitled under the CARES Act, as a result of Treasury’s use of the Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) data as a proxy for increased expenditures incurred by the tribes based upon COVID-19. The IHBG metric only counts the population within a formula area that the Shawnee Tribe does not have. As a result, it determined the Shawnee Tribe had zero tribal population rather than the 3,021 members the tribe reported to the Treasury, resulting in the minimum allocation of $100,000, the same allocation as other tribes with less than 37 members.

On January 5, a Court of Appeals three-judge panel reversed the D.C. District Court’s denial of a preliminary injunction and dismissal. The panel remanded the case back to the lower court for adjudication on the merits, with express instructions that the lower court issue a preliminary injunction promptly. In doing so, the D.C. Circuit panel held that “the Shawnee Tribe is likely to succeed in its claim that the IHBG data is not a suitable proxy for 'increased expenditures.’”

Representation of the Shawnee Tribe was led by Energy, Environment & Natural Resources partner and Shawnee Tribe counsel Pilar Thomas with assistance from Luke Cass, Scott McIntosh and Nicole L. Simmons.