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DFL lawmaker withdraws bills giving millions to nonprofit mentioned in Feeding Our Future case


DFL lawmaker withdraws bills giving millions to nonprofit mentioned in Feeding Our Future case

Apr 23, 2024 | 2:10 pm ET
By Deena Winter
DFL lawmaker withdraws bills giving millions to nonprofit mentioned in Feeding Our Future case
Rep. Hodan Hassan, DFL-Minneapolis. Photo courtesy Minnesota House.

Rep. Hodan Hassan, DFL-Minneapolis, withdrew two bills that would’ve given nonprofit Somali Community Resettlement Services $6.5 million in grants after evidence prepared for a federal trial this week linked the nonprofit to a massive child nutrition fraud. 

Hassan announced in February she will not seek re-election in November.

Somali Community Resettlement Services operated several food distribution sites in 2020 and 2021, but its leaders have not been charged with a crime. Federal prosecutors repeatedly mention those sites in evidence that could be used during the first trial in what has become known as the Feeding Our Future scandal, named after the nonprofit that was the alleged ringleader.

Jury selection began Monday in Minneapolis for seven defendants in the case; 70 people were initially charged in what prosecutors said was the biggest pandemic program scam in the nation. According to the Star Tribune, 18 of those defendants have pleaded guilty, one died and one fled the country.

A list of exhibits (i.e., evidence) federal prosecutors prepared for the trial includes meals claimed and dollar amounts reimbursed by the government to Somali Community Resettlement Services’ locations in Minneapolis, Faribault, Rochester and Willmar. Among evidence seized during a search of defendant Said Farah’s home: a $238,221 check from Somali Community Resettlement of Olmsted County.

On Thursday, Hassan made motions on the House floor to recall two bills she authored; they’re still alive in the Senate, where both bills were sponsored by Sen. Zaynab Mohamed, DFL-Minneapolis. Money for the nonprofit was amended out of a third bill Friday in a committee hearing.

The three bills are:

  • HF4719/SF5037, giving a $5 million grant in fiscal year 2025 from the Department of Employment and Economic Development to the nonprofit. It would address a “critical need for affordable housing and commercial space for the Somali community” by buying a three-acre parcel from the city of Minneapolis to develop a mixed-use residential and commercial project with at least 60 affordable apartments and 10 retail spaces.
  • HF5243/SF5274, appropriating $1.5 million in fiscal year 2025 in DEED workforce development funds to the nonprofit for job training and placement. While Hassan withdrew the House bill, the Senate bill was amended in committee and laid over for possible inclusion in a jobs and economic development bill.
  • An earmark in HF5205/SF5289, the Workforce Development Finance and Policy Committee’s budget bill, included a $1 million grant for the nonprofit for job training/placement. Hassan testified that the money was needed to fix the workforce shortage statewide, but the money was stripped from the bill on Friday, according to the Minnesota House’s information service known as Session Daily.  

According to its website, Somali Community Resettlement Services was formed in Rochester in 1999 “to directly respond to the needs of Somali refugee and immigrants, with an emphasis on personal capacity.” A year later, it added a second location in Faribault, and in 2019, a Minneapolis location. 

The nonprofit reported to the attorney general less than half a million dollars in revenue in 2019, and ended the year with a deficit. Revenue jumped to $1.2 million in 2020; $4.1 million in 2021; and nearly $3 million in 2022, the last year available on the attorney general’s website.

An online database of state government spending, Open Checkbook, indicates the nonprofit gets about a half million dollars annually from several state agencies.

Enough, apparently, to buy the 24,245-square-foot, historic Gale Mansion in Minneapolis in 2022 for $2.6 million, according to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal.

Rep. Walter Hudson, R-Albertville, released a statement saying “it’s about time Democrats have started to take this massive fraud seriously.” 

“The fact that this bill was even introduced after the benefitting nonprofit appeared in Feeding Our Future trial documents more than 40 times is beyond concerning.”

Hassan did not respond to a request for comment.