Judge deals major blow to tribes in dispute over delayed COVID-19 relief

A federal judge has handed the Trump administration a much-needed victory for its coronavirus response efforts, ruling that Alaska Native corporations are entitled to shares of an $8 billion COVID-19 relief fund despite not functioning as tribal governments.

In a 36-page opinion on Friday, Judge Amit P. Mehta dramatically reversed course on a policy issue that has deeply divided Indian Country since the start of the pandemic. In going against a preliminary injunction he imposed two months ago, he concluded that the for-profit entities in Alaska have long met the definition of “tribes” in federal law.