Financial hit prompts Seneca Nation to cut member annuity payments

May 20, 2020

The Seneca Nation has been hit by the COVID virus, not just in illness and death but also in the fiscal resources which support Nation members.

The Nation's casinos, hotels and bingo halls support Seneca finances and a good portion of non-Native people, because there are 4,000 employees and not all are Indian. There is supposed to be money for some local governments from the casinos, but that is tied up in a fight with Albany.

With the casinos closed, a high percentage of Seneca Gaming Corporation revenues have stopped and that means this is one of the last months when many Nation members will get a full annuity check.

"We made the difficult but necessary decision to reduce annuity payments to $500," he said. "The reduction will go into effect beginning in July and remain in place through the end of our fiscal year in September. The annuity reductions apply to minors as well, with $250 being distributed and $250 being placed in the minor's trust fund," said Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong.

The annuity cut means the checks that go out in July will drop from $700 and $800 to that $500. Seneca elders and people with disabilities will not see their checks drop.

"Both payments will remain fully intact during this period," Armstrong said. "We know that annuity reduction is a difficult pill for our members to swallow, but without the ability to generate needed revenue for the past several weeks, the Nation was left with no choice."

Besides that, many of those workers who lost their paychecks when casinos were closed were Senecas. The Nation has received some cash from Washington in the CARES Act aimed at easing the effects of the virus.

Armstrong said the Nation will decide when to reopen.

"As a sovereign nation, the Seneca Nation and government will make the final determination on opening our territories for business," he said. "Our goal is to balance public health and economic health. We need to get our economic engines running again and we will, with the safety of our community and workers always in mind."