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Judicial clarification should release $300 million in block grant funds

WASHINGTON – The June 30 judicial amendment of an original decision is likely to result in the continued distribution of $300 million in Indian Housing Block Grants.

“This really defines ... the decision the judge originally intended,” said Rodger Boyd, deputy assistant secretary at the Office of Native American Programs within the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “This helps us a lot, and the tribes,” he said of the amended judgment.

HUD withheld the $300 million in congressionally appropriated Indian housing funds over a May 25 ruling in U.S. District Court for Colorado. The ruling involved a $400,000 dispute over housing inventory of the Fort Peck Housing Authority. HUD feared the ruling invalidated a key element in the formula used to calculate all IHBG grants, potentially calling for a recalculation of every such grant ever made under the Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act. HUD reacted by declaring itself “unable to process any further F[iscal] Y[ear] 2006 IHBG awards,” in effect freezing $300 million in Indian housing funds that American Indian and Alaska Native housing authorities nationwide rely on.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs considered that an overreaction and urged distribution of the funds. After a hearing on the matter the morning of June 28, the committee met with HUD officials that afternoon and followed up with a letter.

On June 30, Judge Richard Matsch modified his initial ruling to clarify that it applies only to Fort Peck Housing Authority.

In materials released the day the decision reached it, the National American Indian Housing Council drew the presumably obvious conclusion: “Therefore no other tribal housing authority’s FY06 IHBG allocation should be affected.”