Cherokee Per Capita Lending Program Approved
Following the passage of a resolution introduced by Principal Chief Patrick Lambert, tribesmen have access to cash between regular payouts by borrowing up to $ 500 per month for an interest-free loan in exchange for their upcoming per capita payment.
“If there is a young family, a mother and a father in one house, and they borrow against their own pro-cap payment, then an additional thousand dollars come into this household,” Lambert told the tribal council on October 31, life-changing be.”
Instead of paying exorbitant interest fees to the loan sharks known to hunt Cherokee families in financial distress, Lambert said, legislation would allow them to pay zero percent interest on their own money with an application fee of $ 35 for access every six month period. Since casino winnings are paid monthly to the tribe but are paid biennially to its members, the loan program would not pose a cash flow problem to the tribal finances. And since loans are not considered income, receiving cash in this way would not affect the social security benefits of tribal members. Social security payments are set monthly based on a person’s income during that period.
“Our goal is to have self-sufficient families, so this would be just another opportunity to do so,” Vickie Bradley, secretary of EBCI Public Health and Human Services, told the council.
Poverty is high on the Qualla border, Bradley said. A 2013 health assessment of the tribes found that 23 percent of the people living there sometimes went without food. While there are services for those in need, none of these services come in the form of monthly payments. The loan program, Bradley said, would allow for a more consistent stream of income.
Debate about drug tests
Lambert put forward careful arguments in favor of passing the loan program, but his resolution nonetheless met with fierce opposition from some councilors.
When Lambert’s plan was announced, Yellowhill Councilor Anita Lossiah said “there was an immediate outcry from the community, from families with addiction.” Substance abuse is a known problem on the Qualla border and families are concerned, Lossiah said, that the monthly loans will be used to fund drug overdoses. Lossiah expressed support for the concept behind the proposed program but said that it should be designed to prevent loan funds from flowing to drug users. In addition, the loan application process could be a “window of opportunity” to provide financial advice to people who are likely already having trouble managing their money.
She offered an amendment to the resolution that would require loan applicants to get a negative drug test and personal financial advice before they can access the money. Yellowhill Councilor Alan “B” Ensley endorsed the move and it was adopted after a separate vote.
The backlash against the vote was quick and sparked a strong reaction from many in the room. Lambert spoke first, suggesting that if the council imposed a drug test on loan applicants, it might as well ask for one so that everyone could get a per capita check in the first place. After all, according to Lambert, the loans are nothing more than per capita money that is already owed to the respective tribal member – only paid out at a different time than normal.
“To put on someone like that to get their pro-cap, that’s incredible for me. I can’t understand that, ”said Lambert.
Perhaps, Lambert said, some council members were reluctant to pass the resolution because they are among the loan sharks who enrich themselves from the plight of others. Those present agreed that loan sharing is a problem at the Qualla border, with cash advances sometimes having to earn up to 100 percent interest.
“I don’t understand the reluctance to do so,” said Lambert. “This is simply supposed to help people get on their feet. Is it perhaps because there is a feeling that someone is coming and asking you for a loan – (there) is there a loss of power or authority? “
Tribe member Sheila Standingdeer took the microphone after Lambert told the council of her struggles as a college-educated tribal member to find decent employment on the border. For the people in their situation, the loans could do a lot of good. And while drugs are indeed a problem, it doesn’t take $ 500 to overdose.
“Like you said, there are people who do drugs, but people will do what people do,” said Standingdeer. “It doesn’t matter if they have $ 5,000, $ 500, or $ 5. You should stop and think about it. “
“Not everyone has $ 80,000,” she added, throwing a verbal arrow at the councilors, who voted in 2014 to raise their salaries from about $ 70,000 to about $ 80,000. The raise sparked anger in the community, still alive two years later, and led to a lawsuit that the Cherokee Tribal Court ultimately dismissed.
The drug test change was “the stupidest step I’ve heard since I’ve been here this year,” said Big Cove Councilor Teresa McCoy.
“Get off your high horse,” she said to her fellow councilors. “You make $ 80,000 a year. You don’t want people kidding, then give them the opportunity to help themselves. “
McCoy then preferred to overturn Lossiah’s amendment from the resolution, with enough councilors changing their minds to reject the amendment.
“We’re talking about grandparents,” added Brenda Norville, a tribe member who lives in Snowbird. “They come in and do a drug test before they get access to their $ 500, that was really bad Anita (Lossiah). You should never have done that. “
“If you explain to them and tell them we’re trying to fight the drug epidemic, they’ll understand why we’re doing this,” Ensley replied. “The drug epidemic is why they have to raise their grandchildren.”
“You will have people paying small bills,” Norville said. “You will have people who have car bills coming in. Emergencies only – you will probably have 90 percent of the people coming in for that $ 500 that they are using wisely.”
Loan terms and loan sharks
When Lossiah got back on the line, it was to reiterate that she supports the idea of offering emergency loans, but believes that some sort of requirement should be made of those who do access them.
“This is entirely due to an outcry in our community trying to implement a few more guidelines,” Lossiah said. “And that’s a loan. That is something that has to be paid back. Usually a loan pays with interest. It’s good to make people think and plan about their finances. “
But, said Lambert, people are already getting loans – just not on fair terms. A side effect of his legislation, he said, would be to put a pinch on those who get rich through the tough times of others.
“At last we had 120 checks per cap that went to one person – the last one was 600,000 US dollars per cap. One address got 120 checks, ”he said. “If that alone isn’t reason enough, I think that the consideration should be what everyone has to do and need a little money to bridge them.”
The council finally approved the law. But Lossiah maintained her stance that the executive office should take great care to develop guidelines to prevent the service from being misused.
“This is something that cannot be used as an enabler, so let’s make sure that the guidelines for these processes are developed properly and really well,” she said.
“You have my certainty of that,” replied Lambert.
The loans proved popular once approved, and long lines of tribesmen formed to petition the week the resolution was passed. After two days – November 3rd and 4th – 1,557 applications had been received, representing about 10 percent of the tribal members. By the end of Monday, November 7th, more than 2,000 people had applied. Those who have applied so far will receive their checks on Thursday November 10th.
After this initial loan disbursement, the tribal government will look at the process and tweak it to keep the program running smoothly.
“As this was the first of its kind, we’re making some minor changes to the process that sets deadlines, allows for a monthly recurring loan, and allows people living outside the Qualla line to participate without having to this is required to travel here. This could benefit college students, ”said Chris McCoy, tribe communications director.
A specialist will likely be hired to handle the loan program in the future, although it is currently overseen by Susie Wolfe, the tribe’s accounting and revenue manager.
“I’ve always believed that your money should be in your hands faster than twice a year, and I’ve fought and debated for years to get this type of system in place,” Lambert wrote on his Facebook page. “Immediately after I submitted the legislation, I went to work to get approval from the Social Security Administration, the Tribal Council, and others to make this happen. And it worked.”
Tribal members receive the highest per capita price ever
While tribesmen don’t get their per capita checks until December, an announcement last week revealed that the payment this cycle will be the highest since the first per capita payment was made nearly 20 years ago.
Each registered member will receive $ 6,189, decreasing to $ 6,088 after mandatory tax and to $ 5,261 after voluntary tax.
“This is, in my opinion, the biggest check we have ever received, so thanks to everyone who came to play, thank you, and the Harrah’s staff,” said Painttown Councilor Tommye Saunooke during the council meeting on Nov. November.
The per capita money is made from casino profits, and the tribe now has a casino more than they did a year ago. Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino and Hotel opened in September 2015, and now its winnings with those of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort contribute to per capita payments – half of the casino winnings go to the tribal government and the other half go pro Head split payments.