Tribal Government & News

Elders pension payments moving to first of the month in June

02.29.2016 Brent Merrill Tribal Council

Beginning June 1, Grand Ronde Tribal Elders will start receiving their pension benefit nine days earlier when the payment date changes to the first day of the month.

“The reason that we’re doing it is last year we looked at the calendar for this year and for 2017, and the way that the per capita has been falling it’s either on the same day as per cap or one falls on one day and the other falls on the next,” said Member Services Department Manager Penny DeLoe. “That’s a lot of work on us and it’s a lot of work on Finance.”

Tribal Council held a first reading on amendments to the Elders Retirement Program and SSI Program Ordinance during its Wednesday, Feb. 17, meeting, which was the first step in approving the change in payment dates.

DeLoe said she participated in a meeting with Enrollment Specialist Jolanda Catabay, Controller Linda Hanna, Staff Accountant Michelle Peterson and Senior Staff Attorney Deneen Aubertin Keller to discuss the benefit distribution and that they agreed the change in distribution dates made sense.

“Everybody was on the same page with it because in June they are also bringing all the Elders’ payments in-house so this will make it easier for us and make it easier for Finance,” said DeLoe.

Per capita payments were brought in-house – meaning those distributions are now done by the Tribe rather than an outside consulting company – last year.

DeLoe said one of the other important reasons for making the change is that many Elders struggle because their rent payments are due on the first of each month and that many were incurring late fees because of the benefit distribution date on the 10th. She said the change will help with that situation.

Hanna said she initiated the change in distribution dates to ease that problem.

“The bigger issue in my mind is that Elders have expressed a desire to get it sooner than that,” said Hanna. “I think it will be beneficial to the Elders, so I think it is a win-win situation.”

“I think the Elders are very appreciative of their payment,” said Tribal Council Chairman Reyn Leno. “It helps them out with a lot of their planning for bills. That was part of the concept to get it to the first.”

Currently, Elders’ pension benefits are processed and distributed by Automated Data Processing, which used to handle per capita benefit distributions as well until 2015. All per capita processing and distributions are now handled by the Tribe’s Finance Department.

“The decision to bring those distributions in-house were to be able to have better control and provide better customer service for the members,” said Finance Officer Chris Leno. “If members have an issue with their check we’re able to respond to that versus having them call an external company like ADP. We can react more quickly if there are errors of any kind. The goal is to save the Tribe money by bringing that all in-house. We can respond more immediately and we have the ability to act and react more quickly than our external vendors.”

Hanna said the Tribe has two new dedicated printers to handle the check processing and that the change will save the Tribe money.

“One of the major things it does is it gives the Tribe control over the checks,” said Hanna, “Right now ADP processes the Elders’ checks. They are written on their account and they send them out and after we submit everything to ADP we don’t have the opportunity to change an address or a direct deposit. Now we have additional time to make that correction because we are sending the checks (per capita benefit payments) from here. It will save us about $25,000 a year.”

Hanna said the Finance Department is in the process of setting up the database to make the change for the June Elders’ benefit distribution.

“Our intention is to bring everything in-house,” said Hanna. “The payroll, per capita, Elders, SSI, SSD, the financial statements and processing which will save us thousands and thousands of dollars on audit costs. Right now auditors prepare our financial statements because the software we have is not capable of doing that.

“Over the next year we’re going to be bringing all of that in-house so that we have very little consulting fees or outsourcing fees,” said Hanna. “I think it will be good. So, Elders can expect a payment on June 1 and it will be coming from in-house.”

In other action, Tribal Council:

  •        Approved an amendment to the cooperative agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency not to exceed $160,000;
  •        Declared the first per capita payment date for 2016 as March 11;
  •        Approved an application to the U.S. Department of Justice for a Coordinated Tribal Assistance grant;
  •        Approved a memorandum of understanding between the Tribe and Oregon Department of Transportation regarding the Tribe’s contribution to the Newberg-Dundee bypass construction costs;
  •        And appointed Tribal Council Secretary Cheryle A. Kennedy to the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board and Tribal Council member Denise Harvey to the National Indian Gaming Association as a Tribal delegate.

Also included in the Feb. 17 Tribal Council packet were authorizations to proceed to fund the gathering and maintaining of a supply of wood for sweats at the community sweat lodge, directing the Tribal Attorney’s Office to bring forward a proposed amendment to the Marriage Ordinance that would require ceremonies occur on the Tribal Reservation and to move $3 million out of the Government Operations Trust Fund to establish a Cultural Resources endowment.

Culture Department employees Jordan Mercier, Bobby Mercier and Brian Krehbiel provided the cultural drumming and singing to open the meeting.

The meeting, in its entirety, can be viewed on the Tribal website,, by clicking on the News tab and then Video.