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Public Health Emergency: Legal Preparedness and Response

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Mnuchin


Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Mnuchin (U.S. District Court – District of Columbia, June 15, 2020): A D.C. federal court ordered the Treasury Department to distribute the remainder of COVID-19 relief funds to Indian tribes according to the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Congress set aside $8 billion for tribal governments and directed the Department to distribute the funds within 30 days of March 27, 2020. Sixteen days after the deadline, the court denied the tribes’ first request for injunctive relief (and immediate distribution of relief funds), finding that the tribes “[had] not  carried  their  burden  to  show  that  the  Secretary’s delay thus far is so egregious” to require immediate relief. The court reasoned in part that the Department had begun to distribute 60% of the funds and devise a plan for distributing the rest. The Department later released additional funds but continued to withhold millions. The court then held that “the balance of equities and the public interest favor injunctive relief” and 80 days was “long enough” for the tribes to wait for emergency funds that Congress intended them to receive in less than half that time. Read the decision here.

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – July 15, 2020.

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