Chief Standing Bear's Opening Remarks at 8th Special Session

MONDAY, MAY 24, 2021

Good morning Madam Speaker and Members of the Osage Congress:

Over a year ago, the United States Congress enacted and the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, in response to the public health emergency and negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.  From the
$2.2 trillion dollars appropriated by the United States Congress, the Osage Nation applied for the maximum amount for which we were eligible and received just under $45 million dollars.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, is a $1.9 trillion federal appropriation passed by United States Congress and signed into law on March 11, 2021.  The Executive has been working with our attorneys, advisors, and staff since before the first version of this bill was proposed in January of this year. The American Rescue Plan Act, ARPA for short, comes with a set of rules different than the CARES law. I emphasize the word law, because both CARES and ARPA are federal law, with federal rules, federal guidelines, federal reporting requirements, federal deadlines, and serious consequences for misuse of this money.

Before I report on the projects and eligibility analysis we have worked on diligently since January, let me share with you what we did with the CARES federal appropriation, although we have reported this to you before. I do this because the calling of this Special Session of the Congress for the subject matter listed, is taken by the Executive as a lack of confidence by some, or maybe even all of the Members of this Congress in how we spent the federal appropriation from CARES.

It is important for you to know that I am confident in the guidance from our CARES Advisory Team, who are now the same people for our ARPA Advisory Team.  You have heard their names before: Osage Nation Attorney General Clint Patterson, Osage Nation General Counsel Terry Mason Moore, United States Treasury Tribal Advisory Committee Member Lacey Horn, outside Legal Counsel Dean Luthey, and Washington, D.C. Legal Counsel David Mullon.

This Advisory Team guided our projects through the complex legal requirements of the United States Department of Treasury.

Our implementation of the $45 million dollars CARES funds was a success.  In seven (7) short months we accomplished:
•    A meat processing facility now open and serving our people
•    A state-of-the-art greenhouse and aquaponics facility
•    We secured our food resources at the Osage Ranch with miles of fence, bison and cattle for food production and needed infrastructure
•    Over $13 million dollars to individual Osages and small business owners
•    Resources for the incredible work of our health providers
•    And much more

Now we turn to ARPA.  On May 10 we were informed on how the $20 billion in ARPA federal government dollars for tribes would be distributed.

First, $1 billion dollars is set aside to be split equally across all 574 federally recognized tribes.  The remaining $19 billion dollars is allocated to all Indian Nations based on membership enrollment and tribal employment.  For Osage Nation employment numbers this includes both Osage Nation employees and all Osage owned entities.

65% of the $19 billion dollars (which is $12.35 billion dollars) is distributed by membership enrollment. Osage Nation membership was submitted as 22,925 and our share of the $12.35 billion dollars will be based on that certified submission.

On Wednesday, May 19, I was informed Osage Nation received our share of the $1 billion dollars and the 65%.  This amounted to $108,375,827.59.  I promptly notified the Speaker and Second Speaker of this event.

We currently only have the interim rule for use of ARPA money and this rule is 151 pages long.  We will have the final rule, several weeks from now.  After that, the United States Department of Treasury will issue what is called FAQs, which stands for Frequently Asked Questions.  These FAQs provide more detail on federal guidance and will further change and evolve what we can and cannot do with this money.

ARPA funds have extensive oversight and auditing.  We must ensure that everything we do is in accordance with this evolving set of rules.  We must only act when we know for certain a project is allowable under ARPA.

The Advisory Team has cleared only a few projects and we have been moving forward on several of these and includes the Fairfax Senior Housing Project, the new men’s, women’s, and juvenile Primary Residential Treatment facilities, and the Transitional Living Center.  Also approved and newly started are the design phase for the outdoor recreational park, the Hominy Senior Housing Project, and the Richard Luttrell Memorial Park Project.  Other projects which fall within ARPA and the interim rules, but which have been tentatively approved include HVAC replacements with COVID compliant systems across Osage Nation properties, continued growth of the Osage Nation Broadband internet system, water and sewer improvements in the Villages of Pawhuska, Gray Horse and Hominy, Language, Culture and Museum remote learning initiatives, continuation on existing CARES projects, and administration costs for carrying out ARPA.  These approved or tentatively approved projects amount to $115 million dollars.

I welcome Osage Congress oversight of these projects as long as everything is consistent with federal law.  Remember, these funds have already been appropriated by the United States Congress. Requiring a separate Osage Congress appropriation of the ARPA funds will require immediate response from the Osage Congress when there are legally permissible change orders, other project adjustments, or federal guidance changes.

This ARPA funding is a rare opportunity to make lasting improvements within the Osage Nation. Finally, let me add two matters:

First, our estimate for the remaining 35% of the ARPA funding based on tribal employment is $55 million dollars, but this is only an estimate.  Those funds are scheduled to be released by the federal government in June or July.

Secondly, there are additional ARPA funds coming to the Osage Nation though the Indian Health Service, BIA, HUD and other sources.  We are working to have these supplemental funds working in conjunction with our share of the $20 billion coming directly from United States Treasury.

Thank you.