SMOOTH SAILING – A troller cruises across Sitka Sound during a hazy sunset Friday evening. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Tribes Seek Fast Action In Getting Virus Funds

By FELICIA FONSECA
 
The Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Tribes urged the federal government to quickly disburse coronavirus relief funding after a judge handed them an early victory in a case centered on who is eligible for a share of the $8 billion allocated to tribes.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington D.C. ruled in favor of the tribes late Monday in their bid to keep Alaska Native corporations from getting any of the money — at least for now. The decision clears the U.S. Treasury Department to send payments to 574 federally recognized tribes to response to the coronavirus.

At least 18 tribes sued the Treasury Department, alleging that Congress intended the funding to go only to tribal governments. They said the corporations that own most of the Native land in Alaska don’t fit within the definition of “Indian Tribe” in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act signed into law last month.

Mehta said the tribes easily showed they would suffer irreparable harm unless he limited the funding temporarily to tribal governments while he awaited more argument on the question of eligibility of Alaska Native corporations. 

“These are monies that Congress appropriated on an emergency basis to assist tribal governments in providing core public services to battle a pandemic that is ravaging the nation, including in Indian Country,” Mehta said.

The U.S. Justice Department, which represented Treasury, declined comment Tuesday. The Treasury Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Justice Department attorney Jason Lynch had argued that the Treasury Department’s decision to include Alaska Native corporations wasn’t subject to judicial review because the funding is for a public health emergency. Mehta rejected the argument. 

The Treasury Department has said it could start sending payments to tribes Tuesday — two days past the deadline in the coronavirus relief bill. But it has not said how it would determine who gets what.

Congress set aside $8 billion for tribes in the $2.2 trillion bill. Mehta did not order the Treasury Department to disburse all the money to tribal governments. 

Harry Pickernell Sr., chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation in Washington state, said he was pleased with the judge’s decision.

“This ruling will help tribal governments to lead in the aid and recovery of their people,” he said in a statement.

The tribes that have sued are in Alaska, Arizona, California, Maine, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah and Washington state.

Alaska Native corporations are unique to Alaska and own most of the Native land in the state under a 1971 settlement known as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Mehta said neither the corporations nor the Treasury Department showed the corporations are providing public services comparable to tribal governments to combat the coronavirus.

The corporations, which are not parties to the lawsuit, have said they support Alaska Natives economically, socially and culturally. 

Two associations that together represent most of the corporations — the ANCSA Regional Association and the Alaska Native Village Corporation Association — said they believe the corporations ultimately will be deemed eligible for funding. 

“This will mean a delay in necessary resources and economic assistance for Alaska Native people in our communities and our state,” the groups said. “However, Alaska Native people have a history of resilience and strength. Together we will prevent the spread of COVID-19, care for those who get sick, and repair our economies.”

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death. The vast majority of people recover.

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 8-4-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Monday: 59

Total statewide – 3,394

Total (cumulative) deaths – 25

Active cases in Sitka – 17 (12 resident; 5 non-resident) *

Recovered cases in Sitka – 15 (11 resident; 4 non-resident) *

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 136.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

* These numbers reflect State of Alaska data. Local cases may not immediately appear on DHSS site, or are reported on patient’s town of residence rather than Sitka’s statistics. 

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Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020

NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHERS

TO READERS AND ADVERTISERS

For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website sitkasentinel.com. Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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20 YEARS AGO
August 2000

The School Board Tuesday discussed district policy on head lice. At present, students found to have head lice are kept from school until all lice are removed. The revised policy allows students who have nits to remain in school, with information on treatment and a nit-removing comb to be sent home with them.

50 YEARS AGO
August 1970

Legal notice: Sealed bids will be received ... for furnishing and installation of siding on the City
Garage, located on Halibut Point Road. ... City of Sitka, Alaska Fermin Gutierrez, Director of Public Works. 

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