Funding to resume for Three Affiliated Tribes elders program 4-21-07

NEW TOWN, N.D. (AP) - An elders organization that saw its funds cut early this year because of Three Affiliated Tribes financial problems will once again be receiving money from the tribes.

The tribal Business Council has approved $50,000 for the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Elders Organization, with additional money determined month by month.

The group had requested $350,000 a year, but director Ramona Two Shields said the Council's action was “agreeable.”

The elders group helps the elderly on and off the Fort Berthold Reservation, serving more than 800 enrolled members of the tribes who are 60 years or older. It helps with such things as mail and medication delivery, house cleaning and transportation.

Tribal Chairman Marcus Wells Jr. said in January that the tribes had a debt of more than $100 million. About 80 tribal workers were laid off in February because of the money crunch, and earlier this month the tribe said its small loans department would seek to collect from members who are delinquent.

Wells said recently that about $3.2 million had been cut from the tribal payroll to help with the financial problems, and Tribal Treasurer Frank Whitecalfe said the financial problems are stabilizing.

“Things are going to get better,” he said.

Two Shields and Diana Hale, office manager for the elders organization, have been running the group's office voluntarily in recent months. Several members of the organization's board of directors also have volunteered their time.

As soon as the $50,000 is received, the organization will call back to work the six district coordinators and an office assistant who were laid off earlier this year.