Mashantuckets end payments to tribal members

Mashantucket - Tribal payments aimed at helping members of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe adjust to the cancellation of per-capita distributions of gaming revenue end this month.

The final "transitional" payments are to be made today, according to tribal sources.

Per-capita, or "incentive," distributions that came from Foxwoods Resort Casino revenues were discontinued at the end of 2010 as the tribe grappled with a financial crisis that caused it to default on loans.

The tribe then introduced the Transitional Income Supplemental Payments program in January 2011 as a way to offset the loss of income for the approximately 450 adult tribal members.

The tribe has yet to conclude a restructuring of more than $2 billion in debt, largely a result of a decline in Foxwoods' gaming revenues during the economic downturn. The tribe incurred a sizable portion of the debt in developing a second casino, MGM Grand at Foxwoods, which opened in May 2008.

According to sources, the first transition payments amounted to about $1,500 a month and have progressively decreased over the past year.

The highest transitional payments were no more than one-fifth of what the incentive payments once were. In the summer of 2009, when news of the financial crisis broke, the incentive payments were said to range, on average, from $7,500 to $10,000 a month.

Tribal members were informed in July 2010 that the incentive payments would end that December and that the tribe would help them adjust to the loss of income. Two weeks ago, in reminding members that the transitional payments were ending, the tribe again offered financial counseling and other help, the sources said.

Tribal officials did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

In an earlier response to the end of the incentive payments, the tribal council in late 2010 enacted a law designed to protect the tribe's older, needy members. The Tribal Elders Financial Assistance Law provides for up to $50,000 a year in aid for members who were age 60 and older, as well as those who were at least 55 as of Dec. 31, 2010.

The assistance was to begin Jan. 1, 2011.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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