By Ken Davison
During an era when the enormity of federal stimulus spending is questioned by American citizens and leading media outlets in the country, it was announced last week that the Mohegan Tribe's would receive a $54 million stimulus loan awarded by the a federal government agency to be used toward completing the Tribe's stalled government center on the reservation.
The Day newspaper has published two articles on the award since then and reader's comments have largely been critical of the Tribe receiving stimulus money. Although the $54 million loan was about one-third of all the stimulus money awarded through a rural development stimulus package administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the amount is a small share of the approximately $3 billion in stimulus money that went to Indian tribes, according to a total stimulus figure for Indian Country revealed by White House senior policy adviser for Native American affairs Kim Teehee to Parade magazine.
According to today's column by The Day's David Collins the loan to the Tribe "is 'market' rate, according to the USDA, currently 4.125 percent. The term is 30 years and the loans will be secured by general obligation bonds issued by the tribe."
The column questions how the Tribe could qualify for such a large piece of stimulus under the rural development stimulus program. The source of the loan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. The readers comments on both of The Day articles has been largely critical of the federal stimulus loan given to the Tribe. Collins contacted the offices of the state's two U.S. Senators and other political figures about the loan but nothing new was revealed other than the details in the award announcement last week.
U.S. Senator Chris Dodd said, "These critical loans will fund the creation of nearly 1,300 jobs for residents of eastern Connecticut" and Sen. Joe Lieberman had no comment. "These critical loans will fund the creation of nearly 1,300 jobs for residents of eastern Connecticut," Dodd's statement said. The office of U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said they learned about the loan at the time of last Thursday's award announcement by the Department of Agriculture.
According to the column by Collins, "A Mohegan spokesman said the tribe does not want to comment until a briefing for tribal members, which is scheduled for next week."
The Tribe's government center will reportedly include a community center, significant educational components according to the award announcement, space for Tribal government departments and employees, basketball facilities where the WNBA Connecticut Sun team will practice (owned by the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority), and a library.
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