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Lumbee Tribe Scales Back HUD Debt

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The Lumbee Tribe has trimmed down some of its $114,500 debt owed to the federal government following a recent audit ordered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Still, the Lumbee tribe must repay $88,320 in misspent money, reported The Laurinburg Exchange.

Most of the money owed stems from a contract with Tiber Creek Associates of Capital Hill Inc., based in Washington, DC, which was hired to help the tribe earn federal recognition and assist in its housing program. The Lumbee Recognition Act unanimously passed in the U.S. Senate's Indian Affairs Committee on July 28, and now requires a vote before the entire Senate, reported The Fayetteville Observer. The tribe also runs a Homeownership Department and a Financial Education Program "designed to give our tribal members, who we help with homeownership, the skills, knowledge and understanding of how to not only keep their home, but to also maintain it so that it helps them build wealth,” said Kathy Locklear, the tribe's homeownership manager.

The HUD has ordered the tribe to reimburse $62,000 for hiring the consulting firm without a competitive bid process, reported the Associated Press.

The Lumbee Tribe received about $14.251 million for housing programs in 2010 through the the federal Indian Housing Block Grant program, and the audit was conducted after a series of complaints from unidentified individuals were filed about the tribe's management of the funds. (More than $400 million in Indian Housing Block Grants will be allocated to Indian communities this year.)

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An unannounced on-site review of the tribe's finances on March 29 and March 30 by the HUD's Eastern Woodlands Office of Native American Programs determined the tribe owed the federal government back $114,500 in housing money, although the agency has since waved three of the eight accounts against the tribe. The tribe also will not have to fully reimburse its $14,950 travel expenses for a Las Vegas conference (it will still owe $2,117 in travel expenses), reported The Laurinburg Exchange. Still, the tribe plans to appeal two findings that it must pay back $88,320.

“While I am glad that we were able to resolve some of these issues with HUD, it is my intent to file an appeal for the remaining findings,” Tribal Chairwoman Sharon Hunt said in a statement. “I did, however, want to be forthcoming, as I pledged, and make the report available. I would be happy to discuss the report more in depth after we have filed the appeal.”

Get the full story: Tribe’s HUD debt trimmed.