Joseph P. Kalt

The More Indigenous Nations Self Govern, The More They Succeed

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Harvard Kennedy School Professor Joseph Kalt and senior director Director Megan Minoka Hill say the evidence is in: When Native nations make their own decisions about what development approaches to take, studies show they consistently out-perform external decision makers like the U.S. Department of Indian Affairs. Kalt and Hill say that’s why Harvard is going all in, recently changing the name of the Project on American Indian Economic Development to the Project on Indigenous Governance and Development—pushing the issue of governance to the forefront—and announcing an infusion of millions in funding.  

When the project launched in the mid-1980s, the popular perception of life in America’s indigenous nations—based largely in reality—was one of poverty and dysfunction. But it was also a time when tribes were increasingly being granted increased autonomy from the federal government and were increasingly starting to govern themselves. Researchers also noticed that unexpected tribal economic success stories were starting to crop up, and they set about trying to determine those successes were a result of causation or coincidence. Kalt and Hill say the research has shown that empowered tribal nations not only succeed economically themselves, they also become economic engines for the regions that surround them. The recent announcement of $15 million in new support for the program, including an endowed professorship, will help make supporting tribal self-government a permanent part of the Kennedy School’s mission.  

Resource Type
Citation

Ralph Ranalli (Host). (June 8, 2023). The More Indigenous Nations Self Govern, The More They Succeed. Harvard Kennedy School PolicyCast Ep. 254. Harvard University. Audio podcast episode. Retrieved from: https://www.hks.harvard.edu/faculty-research/policycast/more-indigenous…

Transcripts for all videos are available by request. Please email us: nni@arizona.edu.

Policy Brief: Assessing the U.S. Treasury Department’s Allocations of Funding for Tribal Governments under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

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The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“the Act” or “ARPA”) has resulted in the single largest infusion of federal funding for Native America in U.S. history. The core of this funding is $20 billion for the more than 570 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments. As required by the Act, the Department of the Treasury (“Treasury” or “the Department”) devised and has now implemented a formula for allocating these monies. In this report, the authors find that the allocations that have been made are grossly inequitable and contrary to the policy objectives of Congress, the Biden Administration, and the Treasury Department itself.

This study uses publicly available information to estimate enrollment and employment counts for tribes. These figures are only estimates created for the express purpose of analyzing the appropriateness of the US Department of the Treasury’s American Rescue Plan Act allocations. Our estimates have not and cannot be verified against actual enrollment or employment data submitted to the Department of Treasury by each tribe.  We believe the estimates are as accurate as possible and reliable for the purpose of assessing the relative positions of tribes under Treasury’s ARPA allocations, but should not be extracted and used as accurate for any individual tribe or for any purpose other than how they are used here.

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Citation

Henson, Eric C., Miriam R. Jorgensen, Joseph P. Kalt, and Isabelle G. Leonaitis. 2021. “Assessing the U.S. Treasury Department’s Allocations of Funding for Tribal Governments under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021”. Cambridge and Tucson: Harvard Project for American Indian Economic Development and Native Nations Institute.

Policy Brief: Recommendations for the Allocation and Administration of American Rescue Plan Act Funding for American Indian Tribal Governments

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The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provides the largest infusion of federal funding for Indian Country in the history of the United States. More than $32 billion dollars is directed toward assisting American Indian nations and communities as they work to end and recover from the devastating COVID19 pandemic – which was made worse in Indian Country precisely because such funding is long overdue.

In this policy brief, we set out recommendations which we hope will promote the wise and productive allocation of ARPA funds to the nation’s 574 federally recognized American Indian tribes. We see ARPA as a potential “Marshall Plan” for the revitalization of Indian nations. The Act holds the promise of materially remedying at least some of the gross, documented, and long-standing underfunding of federal obligations and responsibilities in Indian Country. Yet, fulfilling that promise requires that the federal government expeditiously and wisely allocate ARPA funds to tribes, and that tribes efficiently and effectively deploy those funds to maximize their positive impacts on tribal communities.

Insights from Congressional and Tribal Leaders: Coronavirus Relief for American Indian Tribal Govt

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In March 2020, American Indian tribes celebrated their historic inclusion in the CARES Act, receiving nearly $11 billion in direct relief. The Act recognized that tribal governments are confronting extraordinary demands parallel to those faced by state and local governments. The relief dollars, however, have been slow to reach Native Americans. While tribal governments have put forth unprecedented efforts to serve their citizens in crisis, restrictions on the use and timing of federal relief monies have hindered tribes’ capacities to do all they are capable of. Now, as Congress returns from their summer recess to debate additional coronavirus relief packages, including potential additional direct aid to tribal governments, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center and the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development will host a diverse panel of Congressional and tribal leaders to look ahead and discuss how Congress might come together on a bipartisan basis to enhance support for Indian Country’s pandemic recovery efforts. Please join us for an informative session, featuring:

  • U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT)
  • U.S. Representative Sharice Davids (D-KS)
  • President Shelley Buck, Prairie Island Indian Community
  • Governor Stephen Lewis, Gila River Indian Community (HKS MPA 2006)
  • Chairman Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid, Jr., Crow Tribe of Indians
  • Moderated by Prof. Joseph P. Kalt, Director, Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development

Policy Brief: Federal COVID‐19 Response Funding for Tribal Governments: Lessons from the CARES Act

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The federal response to the COVID‐19 pandemic has played out in varied ways over the past several months. For Native nations, the CARES Act (i.e., the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) has been the most prominent component of this response to date. Title V of the Act earmarked $8 billion for tribes and was allocated in two rounds, with many disbursements taking place in May and June of this year. This federal response has been critical for many tribes because of the lower socio‐economic starting points for their community members as compared to non‐Indians. Even before the pandemic, the average income of a reservation‐resident Native American household was barely half that of the average U.S. household. Low average incomes, chronically high unemployment rates, and dilapidated or non‐existent infrastructure are persistent challenges for tribal communities and tribal leaders. Layering extremely high coronavirus incidence rates (and the effective closure of many tribal nations’ entire economies) on top of these already challenging circumstances presented tribal governments with a host of new concerns. In other words, at the same time tribal governments’ primary resources were decimated (i.e., the earnings of tribal governmental gaming and non‐gaming enterprises dried up), the demands on tribes increased. They needed these resources to fight the pandemic and to continue to meet the needs of tribal citizens.

As in the rest of the U.S., emergency and interim support from the CARES Act (and to a lesser extent, related COVID‐19 stimulus funding) has helped to dampen the social and economic harm of the COVID‐19 crisis in Indian Country. This is in spite of the fact that the assistance was delivered to the 574 federally recognized Indian tribes only after considerable litigation‐driven delay, with counterproductive strings attached, and in a context characterized by long‐standing federal government under‐funding and neglect.

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Citation

Henson, Eric C., Megan M. Hill, Miriam R. Jorgensen, Joseph P. Kalt. July 24, 2020. Policy Brief: Federal COVID‐19 Response Funding for Tribal Governments: Lessons from the CARES Act. Cambridge and Tucson: Harvard Project for American Indian Economic Development and Native Nations Institute.

Policy Brief: Emerging Stronger than Before: Guidelines for the Federal Role in American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes’ Recovery from the COVID‐19 Pandemic

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The COVID‐19 pandemic has wrought havoc in Indian Country. While the American people as a whole have borne extreme pain and suffering, and the transition back to “normal” will be drawn out and difficult, the First Peoples of America arguably have suffered the most severe and most negative consequences of all. The highest rates of positive COVID‐19 cases have been found among American Indian tribes, but that is only part of the story. Even before the pandemic, the average household income for Native Americans living on Indian reservations was barely half the U.S. average. Then the pandemic effectively shut down the economies of many tribal nations.3 In the process, tribal governments’ primary sources of the funding – which are needed to fight the pandemic and to meet citizens’ needs – have been decimated. As with the rest of the U.S., emergency and interim support from the CARES Act and other federal measures have helped to dampen the social and economic harm of the COVID‐19 crisis in Indian Country. Yet this assistance has come to the country’s 574 federally recognized Indian tribes with litigation‐driven delay and counterproductive strings attached, and against a prepandemic background characterized by federal government underfunding and neglect – especially as compared to the funding provided and attention paid to state and local
governments.

The precedent in the CARES Act, acknowledgment that the federally recognized tribes carry responsibilities which mirror those of state and local governments is a breakthrough; tribes must continue to receive significant additional support along with their state and local counterparts as further pandemic relief funding is crafted by Congress. In the process, it is imperative to consider whether and how the current crisis in Native America can be turned into an opportunity for tribes to emerge from this crisis with greater cultural strength and community wellbeing, and with more robust and resilient economies and governments. Although laid through adversity, the grounds for such opportunity have been clarified by the COVID‐19 crisis. If such a hope is to be realized, both tribal governments and the federal government will have critical roles to play. As we discuss in our forthcoming series of companion policy briefs, turning crisis into opportunity will require tribes’ concerted and clear‐headed commitment to “nation building” – i.e., building and rebuilding the legal, political, and social institutions that undergird the realization of community core values and the successful pursuit of community‐determined goals. Such institutions are not alien to American Indian tribes. They governed themselves for millennia prior to colonialization. The difference today, however, is that U.S. federal governmental policies are a key determining factor in Native nations’ progress toward rebuilding their capacities to govern and govern well.

In this policy brief, we offer guidelines for federal policy reform that can fulfill the United States’ trust responsibility to tribes, adhere to the deepest principles of self‐governance upon which the country is founded, respect and build the governing capacities of tribes, and in the process, enable tribal nations to emerge from this pandemic stronger than they were before. We believe that the most‐needed federal actions are an expansion of tribal control over tribal affairs and territories and increased funding for key investments in tribal communities.

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Citation

Henson, Eric C., Megan M. Hill, Miriam R. Jorgensen, Joseph P. Kalt. July 24, 2020. Policy Brief: Emerging Stronger than Before: Guidelines for the Federal Role in American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes’ Recovery from the COVID‐19 Pandemic. Cambridge and Tucson: Harvard Project for American Indian Economic Development and Native Nations Institute.

Policy Brief: Proposal for a Fair and Feasible Formula for the Allocation of CARES Act COVID‐19 Relief Funds to American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Governments

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Title V of the CARES Act requires that the Act’s funds earmarked for tribal governments be released immediately and that they be used for actions taken to respond to the COVID‐19 pandemic. These may include costs incurred by tribal governments to respond directly to the crisis, such as medical or public health expenditures by tribal health departments. Eligible costs may also include burdens associated with what the U.S. Treasury Department calls “second‐order effects,”2 such as having to provide economic support to those suffering from employment or business interruptions due to pandemic‐driven business closures. Determining eligible costs is problematic. Title V of the CARES Act instructs that the costs to be covered are those incurred between March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020. Not only does this create the need for some means of approximating expenditures that are not yet incurred or known, but the Act’s emphasis on the rapid release of funds to tribes also makes it imperative that a fair and feasible formula be devised to allocate the funds across 574 tribes without imposing undue delay and costs on either the federal government or the tribes.

Citation

Akee, Randall K.Q., Eric C. Henson, Miriam R. Jorgensen, Joseph P. Kalt. May 18, 2020. Policy Brief: Proposal for a Fair and Feasible Formula for the Allocation of CARES Act COVID‐19 Relief Funds to American Indian and Alaska Native Tribal Governments. Cambridge and Tucson: Harvard Project for American Indian Economic Development and Native Nations Institute.

Policy Brief: The Need for a Significant Allocation of COVID‐19 Response Funds to American Indian Nations

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This policy brief addresses the impact of the current COVID‐19 crisis on American Indian tribal economies, tribes’ responses to the crisis, and the implications of these impacts and actions for the US government’s allocation of crisis‐response funds to federally recognized tribes. We conclude that the pandemic is devastating the economies and governments of the 574 federally recognized tribal nations in US, and that the effects are spilling over with dire consequences for the regions and states in which tribes are embedded. The case for major relief and stimulus funding of tribes and, especially, their governments is pressing in the extreme. Under federal policies of self‐determination, American Indian tribes are tasked with the same responsibilities for meeting the needs of their citizens as state and local governments. Tribes, however, operate under unique and highly constrained economic and fiscal constraints that must be taken into account as federal COVID‐19 response dollars are allocated to tribes. In this study, we provide key points from our most recent research findings, condensed in the hopes of contributing useful information as the federal government (especially the US Department of the Treasury) works to meet the unprecedented challenges brought on by COVID‐19.

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Citation

Akee, Randall K.Q., Eric C. Henson, Miriam R. Jorgensen, Joseph P. Kalt. May 18, 2020. Policy Brief: The Need for a Significant Allocation of COVID‐19 Response Funds to American Indian Nations. Cambridge and Tucson: Harvard Project for American Indian Economic Development and Native Nations Institute.

Policy Brief: Dissecting the US Treasury Department’s Round 1 Allocations of CARES Act COVID‐19 Relief Funding for Tribal Governments

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In a joint statement, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Interior Secretary Bernhardt detailed the amount of CARES Act Title V funds that would be released for federally recognized American Indian tribes starting on May 5, 2010. They noted that the US Treasury Department would “distribute 60 percent of the $8 billion to Tribes based on population data used in the distribution of Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG), subject to a floor of $100,000. This data is based on US Census figures and is already familiar to Tribal governments.” In a separate document, the US Treasury Department detailed exactly how the $4.8 billion would be allocated among tribal governments. The three steps in this allocation are:

  1. Calculate the pro‐rata payment for each Tribal government based on single race and then multi‐race data for each Tribe’s IHBG formula area, and use the larger result for each Tribal government.
  2. Assign a minimum payment of $100,000 to those Tribal governments that would otherwise receive less than that amount under step 1.
  3. For Tribal governments that would receive a payment greater than the minimum, a pro‐rata reduction is made for those amounts above the minimum for each Tribe so that the total amount for all Tribes does not exceed $4.8 billion.

In the analysis below, we have followed this “recipe” using the publicly available IHBG information from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website that explains the IHBG funding formula.5 Key takeaways from our analysis include:

  • Different tribal and reservations population data series give rise to different allocations of CARES Act dollars. The particular population choice has significant impacts on the amount of dollars received by certain tribes.
  • The Department of the Treasury chose to use tribal population numbers derived from racial population data that ties to HUD’s block grant formula for allocation of housing monies. This population choice by Treasury resulted in a number of tribes receiving de minimis payments that are clearly not reflective of the population of tribal citizens or of tribal needs.
  • Further, in failing to reflect actual counts of enrolled tribal citizens, Treasury’s decision to use racial population data from HUD’s IHBG dataset demonstrably produces arbitrary and capricious allocations of CARES Act funds across tribes.
  • None of the publicly available data series are reliable for the purposes to which Treasury has tried to put the HUD IHBG data. Each such data series results in arbitrary and capricious allocations of the CARES Act monies.
  • The case is strong that an appropriate allocation rule would employ the current tribal enrollment figures submitted by tribes to the Treasury Department in mid‐April.

If and to the extent the Treasury has not followed the description of its allocation calculations that has been publicly provided, the numerical figures we report below would change. However, the key conclusions we reach regarding the inadequacies of those calculations and, in particular, the infirmity of the data being used by Treasury would not change.

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Citation

Akee, Randall K.Q. Eric C. Henson, Miriam R. Jorgensen, Joseph P. Kalt. May 18, 2020. Policy Brief: Dissecting the US Treasury Department’s Round 1 Allocations of CARES Act COVID‐19 Relief Funding for Tribal Governments. Cambridge and Tucson: Harvard Project for American Indian Economic Development and Native Nations Institute.

HPAIED Letter to the Treasury: Allocation of COVID-19 Response Funds to American Indian Nations

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Dear Secretary Mnuchin,

We write to respectfully comment on the impact of the current COVID-19 crisis on American Indian tribal economies, tribes’ responses to the crisis, and on implications for the allocation of federal COVID-19 response funds to federally recognized tribes under the CARES Act and related current and forthcoming federal actions. Under federal policies of self-determination, American Indian tribes are tasked with the same responsibilities for meeting the needs of their citizens as state and local governments. Tribes, however, operate under unique and highly constrained economic and fiscal constraints that must be taken into account as federal COVID-19 response dollars are allocated by your Department. We will shortly release a longer and more detailed study of these issues. Here, we provide key points from our research findings, condensed in the hopes of contributing useful information within the appropriately tight timeframe in which the federal government and the US Department of the Treasury are working to meet the pressing challenges brought on by COVID-19.

Native Nations
Resource Type
Citation

Akee, R., Henson, E., Jorgensen, M., and Kalt, J. "Letter to the Treasury: Allocation of COVID-19 Response Funds to American Indian Nations" April 10, 2020. Typescript. Harvard Kennedy School: Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, and The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. (https://nnigovernance.arizona.edu/sites/nnigovernance.arizona.edu/files/resources/HPAIED...pdf, accessed July 18, 2023.)