WINNEBAGO, Neb. | More than 5,000 enrolled members of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska did not receive an anticipated $250 stimulus check in July due to tribal budget constraints, according to Tribal Council records.
According to minutes of the June 5 Tribal Council meeting, Tribal Treasurer Brian Chamberlain said the tribe could not afford the stimulus disbursements, which would have totaled $1.3 million. The Tribal Council didn’t discuss the issue after Chamberlain moved for a vote, which passed 8-0, according to the minutes.
Chamberlain did not immediately return a call to the Journal seeking comment.
Tribal Enrollment Director Phyllis Ware said Friday that some tribal members have voiced frustration that the funds were not paid out, as had occurred in previous years.
Ware said enrolled tribe members started to receive $250 checks in July a few years ago. It was in addition to the same size checks that have been distributed to tribe members in December for many more years. The payments are considered non-taxable gifts from the tribe, according to information on the tribe's website.
Ware said the July checks had typically been sent out before the annual Winnebago Pow-Wow, and that a handful of tribe members living outside the region had used the funds in the past to travel to the event.
“We’ve had many angry calls here,” Ware said.
In a July 29 email, Anne Thundercloud, a spokeswoman for the Winnebago Tribe, said that “after prioritizing, the Tribal Council opted to invest in the youth, in lieu of a (July) stimulus payment.”
At the June 5 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously voted to give a $300 stipend to tribal members, ages 3 to 18, for clothing. That amounts to $408,900 for 1,363 children. The funds were distributed in time to use during Iowa's sales tax holiday, which took place Friday and Saturday. Purchases on certain clothing and footwear items are exempt from sales tax during the annual two-day event.
It's unclear whether the clothing allowance was connected to the withholding on the July stimulus payments. Ware declined to comment whether they were connected and directed questions to Winnebago Tribal Chair Darla LaPointe.
LaPointe did not immediately return a call or email to the Journal seeking comment.