PEMBROKE — Lumbee Tribal Council members didn’t just pull numbers “out of the sky” last week when announcing that the tribe has more than $18 million in HUD money that has been held over for several fiscal years, according to McDuffie Cummings, a tribal councilman.
The figures supplied by HUD to council members as late as last Thursday appeared to show that another $13 million allocation would soon be added to the $18 million, giving the tribe more than $31 million to allocate for housing during the upcoming fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, Cummings said.
But according to Donna White, a public affairs specialist with HUD, the $18 million already includes the $13,048,620 for fiscal 2012-2013 . These funds were allocated in May or June, she said, and could be used now if the tribe’s budget process allowed.
White also told The Robesonian on Tuesday that the tribe can expect to receive its 2013-14 allocation of another $13 million in HUD funding by the end of the calendar year in December.
According to Cummings, some of the confusion over HUD funding should be clarified next week by a top HUD official.
“There’s some confusion and some questions that still need to be answered,” Cummings said. “For example, a review of a 2010-11 audit of tribal finances shows that the tribe underspent by $6 million. Where is that $6 million? We didn’t bring it forth in the current budget.”
Cummings said that when council members last Tuesday questioned top tribal administrators about how the tribe accounts for HUD funding, they “didn’t have the answers.” That’s why he brought the issue up at the council’s regular monthly meeting last Thursday, he said.
“We need to study this. We went to the source and they didn’t know. It was our (council’s) obligation to pursue this,” Cummings said. “HUD has told the council in the past that the buck stops with you.”
Cummings said he still questions exactly how much HUD money the tribe currently has in its account. He said that a Tuesday news story said that as of Monday the figure was $17,763,213.28, while as of last Thursday HUD reported to the council that the tribe had $18,495,988.
“That’s a difference of almost $1 million,” Cummings said. “We want to reconcile that difference to make sure all of the services our tribal members are receiving is accounted for.”
White said Tuesday that from the information she has been given from her department, she cannot account for the difference in figures cited by Cummings.
Cummings said that he was surprised to learn from top tribal administrators early last week that they were not aware of changes in HUD’s allocation system that now deposits all unspent money from previous fiscal years into one account, called a 55 account. Previously, money from each grant year stood alone in its own account.
“The administration not being aware of this change concerned me,” Cummings said.
Tammy Maynor, the tribe’s director of Governmental Affairs, has attributed the confusion about how much the tribe has to allot this coming year for housing services to when HUD funds are received.
“It’s a timing issue. We are actually operating on money a year behind,” she said.
Pearlean Revels, the Tribal Council’s speaker who was one of the most vocal last week about what looked like the tribe’s under spending of HUD funds, told a reporter when contacted on Tuesday she was in a meeting and would return his call shortly. The Robesonian never received that phone call.
Cummings said that the tribe still plans to increase the number of tribal members who receive housing services during the coming fiscal year. Currently there are more than 1,000 members of the tribe waiting to receive a new home or have work done on their present dwelling.
“Actually we have increased our budget for (housing) rehab by more than $1 million,” Cummings said. “Our plans are to move as many seniors and disabled off the waiting list as possible.”
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or email@example.com.