Building upon last month’s announcement of $142 million in awards for distressed communities – the single largest round of awards in the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund’s history – yesterday, I had the privilege of meeting with a national gathering of Native CDFIs in Honolulu, HI where I announced an additional $11.85 million in awards expressly for financial institutions serving Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities.
That money, made under the fiscal year 2011 round of Treasury’s Native American CDFI Assistance Program (NACA Program), will go to 35 organizations with a primary mission of serving low-income and distressed Native communities in 17 states, the majority of them in rural areas. Of the 35, seven organizations serving Native Hawaiian communities will receive awards that will allow them to increase lending services, start new microloan programs and increase their capacity to serve their target markets.
Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian communities throughout the United States have always faced a unique set of challenges and opportunities when it comes to community development. The NACA Program awards have been tailored to address that unique situation, and to enable these organizations to expand their operations and lending to serve Native communities in need. These grants mean that Native CDFIs now have additional critical resources to aid them as they work to fight poverty and increase economic development.
I was joined by Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Representative Colleen Hanabusa and Native CDFIs from across the country to announce the awards, which capped off a trip focused on Native community development issues in Hawaii. During the trip, I had the opportunity to tour CDFI projects in several distressed communities and participate in a roundtable discussion on economic development hosted by the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee. On the big island of Hawaii, I had the privilege of traveling off the main roads and deep into the Waipio Valley to see firsthand the needs of remote Native Hawaiians. There I met with several Native CDFI leaders providing financing to build new housing developments for families without adequate shelter, create new charter schools to provide a better education for young Native Hawaiians and make available loans to support small businesses that create local jobs. Their work was inspiring and will be greatly assisted by the awards Treasury announced yesterday.
The CDFI Fund has been actively addressing Native CDFI-specific capacity issues for nearly a decade under the NACA Program, and yesterday’s awards announcement is a testament to the positive work we’ve been able to do in Native communities over that time. You can learn more about the NACA Program and our other Native initiatives on the CDFI Fund’s website.
Donna Gambrell is Director of the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund.