The DOI will award most of its CARES Act funding to Indian Country through grants to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). Of the $756 million, $522 million (69.0 percent) will be funded to Indian Country. As of June 13, 2020, $419,462,721, or 80.4 percent, had been obligated.
These emergency response awards from the DOI–together with more than $8.7 billion in awards to Indian Country from other Federal departments—present a higher risk because they must be spent in a short period of time. In addition, we have identified Indian Country as a high-risk area in our recent Top Management Challenges reports because in the past, the BIA, the BIE, and tribes have faced many challenges with handling grant funds. This further increases the risk that Federal tax dollars will be misused, abused, and vulnerable to fraud. In addition, emergency situations could grow rapidly in size, scope, or complexity, thereby elevating the risk even higher.
In this report we present lessons learned in our prior work that the DOI, the BIA, and the BIE should consider as they make awards, promote safety, and provide oversight under the CARES Act. In our previous reports, we found that the following areas are important for improved safety and successful oversight:
• Ensuring Indian school safety and health while providing educational services
• Providing oversight to help prevent mismanagement of financial awards
• Minimizing the spread of the virus while maintaining safety within tribal detention centers
The BIA, the BIE, tribes, and tribal organizations will have specific challenges in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We know there are risks and complexities surrounding emergency funds that can be difficult to manage. As such, we plan to help provide oversight and ensure the CARES Act moneys are spent appropriately.