Yesterday, the Department of Treasury (Treasury) issued a Final Rule on the Fiscal Recovery Funds (FRF) established within the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), which was signed into law in early March last year. The Act established a $20 billion set aside for Tribal Governments within the FRF, which was intended to aid in the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Rule provides increased flexibility for Tribal Governments to spend the $20 billion set aside for a broader range of uses and simplifies the guidance for governments.
Some key provisions for Tribal Governments within the Rule include:
Public Health and Economic Impacts - The Final Rule clarifies that recipients can use funds for capital expenditures that support an eligible COVID-19 public health or economic response. As examples, Treasury has stated that FRF recipients can use funds to build certain affordable housing, childcare facilities, schools, hospitals, and other projects consistent with the Final Rule. Tribal Governments are exempt from the requirement to complete a written justification for capital expenditures.
Expands the set of households and communities that are presumed to be “impacted” and “disproportionally impacted” by COVID-19: This allows FRF recipients to provide responses to a broad set of households and entities without requiring additional analysis. Households and communities served by Tribal governments are presumed to be disproportionally impacted communities, which allows Tribal Governments to provide them with a wide range of services without requiring additional analysis. Examples of eligible uses of FRF funds include, but are not limited to the following—
- Cash and food assistance;
- Health insurance coverage expansion and paid sick and family leave;
- Financial services for the unbanked and underbanked;
- Affordable housing development and permanent supportive housing;
- Early learning services;
- Addressing learning loss for K-12 students; and
- Improvements to vacant or abandoned property.
Small Business Assistance: Small businesses operated by Tribal governments, or on Tribal Lands, are also presumed to be disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis. Therefore, the Final Rule states that Tribal businesses may receive loans or grants to mitigate financial hardships, technical assistance and other business planning assistance, and access to a broader set of capital expenditures and support services. Treasury has also included Tribal Development Districts (e.g., commercial centers for Tribal hospitality, gaming tourism, and entertainment industries) in the list of impacted industries eligible to receive aid that responds to those impacts.
Workforce: The Final Rule also allows FRF recipients to cover payroll and covered benefits for public safety, public health, and human services staff for the portion of time spent responding to COVID-19. It also provides a broader array of options for FRF recipients to restore and support their Tribal public sector workforce.
Hazard Pay: The Final Rule delivers more streamlined options to provide premium pay, by broadening the share of eligible workers who can receive premium pay without a written justification while maintaining a focus on lower-income and frontline workers performing essential work. Additionally, Tribal Government workforces have been identified as eligible workers in critical infrastructure sectors.
This Rule comes after over 1,500 comments were submitted to Treasury in response to the issuance of their Interim Final Rule (IFR) on May 17, 2021, to implement the FRF. The Final Rule goes into effect April 1, 2022. Treasury will be hosting a webinar on Thursday, January 13, 2022, at 3:00 pm EST to give an overview of the Final Rule and answer questions from Tribal leaders.
The webinar registration can be accessed here.
The Treasury posted a Tribal Government Factsheet for a complete review on all provisions within the Rule, and it has been attached to this alert as well. Please contact Danielle Her Many Horses at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments with this alert.