After a five-week wait, the White Earth Nation received $20.6 million in federal funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

Congress appropriated $8 billion for tribal governments in the CARES Act that passed March 27, and the funds were received by White Earth earlier this month.

“We want to thank Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith for all her hard work in securing these much-needed funds for the White Earth Nation,” District III Rep. Eugene “Umsy” Tibbetts said in a news release. “We are still in the process of deciding how the money will be used in the best interests of our members, communities and the Reservation Business Committee (Tribal Council) programs.”

Smith serves on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

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White Earth has been making about $10 million a year from its casino operations in Mahnomen and Bagley the past few years, but the tribe has shut down gaming operations as a COVID-19 prevention measure. The federal funds should help offset losses in gaming revenue.

“In light of the current COVID-19 situation, the funding provided to White Earth through the CARES Act is a tremendous tool enabling the Emergency Management Team to further strengthen preparedness efforts in the event of a greater statewide spread,” Ed Snetsinger, incident commander of the White Earth Emergency Management Team, said in the news release. “This funding will ensure we’re firing on all cylinders in the prevention and protection of White Earth in the battle against COVID-19.”

After weeks of delay, the U.S. Treasury Department said it would immediately distribute $4.8 billion (60 percent of the $8 billion set aside) to tribes based on population data, with a minimum amount set at $100,000, according to the news release.

The remaining $3.2 billion (40 percent of the $8 billion) is expected to be distributed to tribes based on the total number of persons employed by the Indian tribe and their tribally-owned entities. It is possible that the White Earth Nation will receive additional money when that amount is calculated by the U.S. Department of Treasury.