Secretary-Treasurer’s Report

Secretary/Treasurer’s Report

Secretary-Treasurer Leonard M. Fineday

Greetings Leech Lake Band members! It is my honor and privilege to provide you with this report regarding the activities undertaken in February 2024.

FY 25 Budget & Audit Update

The Budget Committee provided a balanced preliminary budget to the RBC on February 8, 2024. The District Representatives have set public hearings for later in February and early March pursuant to the Budget Ordinance. Final adoption of the FY 25 Budget is scheduled for the April 2024 Quarterly RBC Meeting, again as contemplated in the Budget Ordinance. It is amazing to see the progress that has been made since July 2022, when we last started a Fiscal Year with no duly adopted budget in place. I am truly grateful to the Budget Committee and the Finance Department staff, along with our division directors, program managers and Band members for the time, effort and energy that has been put into making Budget Ordinance compliance a reality.

As reported last month, work on the FY 22 Audit continues. We are staying in regular contact with our auditors at REDW and will continue to prioritize audit completion until we are fully caught up.

Four Walls Policy Update

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) have been working on implementing the Four Walls Policy on tribal and IHS facilities and services. Remember, this Policy requires reimbursable services to be provided within the “Four Walls” of a clinic. Implementing this policy as-is would have a major detrimental impact on Leech Lake’s behavioral health, A&D and other health programs. Leech Lake leaders, along with leaders from other Minnesota tribes, have been working diligently with CMS to find a solution that would allow tribal health systems to deliver services without the disruption that implementing this policy would cause.

On January 31, 2024, CMS hosted a national call with tribal leaders where they formally announced their agreement with Leech Lake leadership and other Minnesota tribes regarding the interpretation of this policy. CMS formally announced they were working on proposed rulemaking to modify their current regulation in a way that would allow tribes like Leech Lake to continue to provide reimbursable services unabated. This is a substantial win for Leech Lake and we were thanked for our leadership role in this effort by other Minnesota tribes and the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

We will continue to monitor this important issue, working closely with CMS as they develop the language of their new proposed regulation to be sure it fixes this issue going forward.

Minnesota Indian Gaming Association Update

On February 6, 2024, I attended the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association meeting. At the meeting, tribal leaders agreed to make necessary changes to the MIGA Charter, and elected an Interim Chairman, Cole Miller, the newly-elected Chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Community. We will meet again in March and adopt proposed revisions to the MIGA Charter.

Election Update

On February 9, 2024, the RBC met and certified each candidate that filed to run for the office of District III Committeeman and Chairman. A full list of the candidates and their essays is available. I encourage all Band members to exercise your right to vote in the Primary Election on April 2, 2024.

Community Wellness Recovery Navigators Update

I am pleased to report that the new Leech Lake Community Wellness Recovery Navigators Program is up and running. We have two navigators and one manager working in this program that is aimed at assisting those struggling with addictions with necessary resources, including Narcan, referrals to A&D services, detox and recovery. This program is in its infancy here at Leech Lake, but is a tentpole in our strategic plan to combat the opioid and fentanyl epidemic that has been plaguing our community for far too long. By continuing to work together, we will see progress made.

National Congress of American Indians Update

From February 11, 2024 to February 14, 2024, I attended the National Congress of American Indians Executive Council Winter Session. As Midwest Area Vice President, I presented an emergency resolution on behalf of the White Earth Nation regarding the White Earth Nation’s attempts to regulate water resources within the boundaries of their Reservation. The resolution was unanimously approved by the NCAI Executive Committee.

Reserve Fund Update

On February 20, 2024, the RBC held a briefing where a resolution was presented to expend Reserve funds for the purchase of a hotel in Deer River, Minnesota. Other expenditures at the briefing were discussed, including a $5 million infusion into our education endowment to support the increase in post-secondary scholarships. Due to an emergency, I was unable to attend the RBC meeting that followed on February 22, 2024, but a resolution was presented at that meeting that allocated these funds, plus funds for additional land purchase and supplemental funding for the construction of the wellness centers.

The meeting ended before the resolution could be finally voted on. I am in support of tabling or suspending consideration of these proposals until such time as a public meeting can be held and the merits of each expenditure is openly discussed and debated.

I will also work toward developing a process or procedure to ensure that expenditure of these Reserve Funds is done in a transparent and accountable manner going forward so we do not run into this situation in the future. Before Reserve funds are expended, public input and consent needs to be obtained.

State Small Business Credit Initiative Update

The Leech Lake Band is moving forward with the creation of a Small Business Credit Initiative Program. This Program is being established with funds allocated through the American Rescue Plan Act and will foster economic development, provide financial support to small businesses, and create a positive impact on the community.

The Small Business Credit Initiative was started by the federal government around 2010 and focused on State governments. In the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, Congress expanded the Initiative to include tribal governments in addition to state governments.

Leech Lake’s Program will offer flexible loans to on-Reservation and Band member owned businesses, ranging from $5,000 to $500,000, both by guaranteeing loans or making companion or parallel loans.

The total funding amount for this Program is approximately $2.1 million, with the idea that the loans provided from this initial allocation will establish a revolving loan fund that will sustain the Program for years to come, stimulating economic development and band member entrepreneurship. Please watch for upcoming information about the Program as we move forward with implementation.

This concludes my report for February 2024. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me at any time. It is a pleasure and an honor to serve each of you! Chi-Miigwech

Leonard “Lenny” Fineday