I am pleased to report that there have been several exciting new developments at the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury since my last message, and more are on the way in the months to come.
The first of these new developments is the arrival of Cyrus Amir-Mokri, the Department of the Treasury’s Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions. Assistant Secretary Amir-Mokri, who most recently served at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, is a welcome friend and supporter at Treasury for the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) industry.
Since joining Treasury, Cyrus has met with representatives from a number of CDFIs and we look forward to his continued engagement. He has stated his belief that community investment is a key to fighting inequality and that CDFIs foster “a holistic approach to rebuilding communities”—investing not just in businesses but also in affordable housing, community centers, quality schools, and other community institutions.
On behalf of everyone at the CDFI Fund, I would like to express our gratitude for his support for our work.
There have been several other important developments at the CDFI Fund in recent months.
On February 17, President Obama announced his intention to appoint two new members of the CDFI Fund’s Community Development Advisory Board. The new appointees are David C. Lizarraga, President and CEO of the Los Angeles-based Community Development Corporation TELACU/Millennium, and Ron Phillips, President and CEO of Coastal Enterprises, the well-known CDFI located in Maine. I am looking forward to working with David and Ron. I expect more members of the Advisory Board to be appointed soon.
Also in February, the CDFI Fund, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Business and Cooperative Programs, released important new guidance for lenders interested in financing rural businesses through the New Markets Tax Credit Program and the USDA's Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program. The guidance is one more demonstration of the CDFI Fund’s commitment to exploring ways to collaborate with other federal agencies to direct more resources to the underserved.
On May 1, we released new program eligibility criteria for the New Markets Tax Credit Program that is based on recently released data from the 2006-2010 American Community Survey. The release of these new criteria, which replaced criteria based on data drawn from the 2000 Census, means that community and economic developers will be able to target their investments in low-income communities using the most recent data available on income and poverty in the U.S. We plan to release new eligibility criteria for our CDFI Program, Native American CDFI Assistance Program, and Bank Enterprise Awards Program later this year.
The CDFI Fund has also taken significant steps to build upon the success of our Capacity Building Initiative, which provides training and technical assistance to help CDFIs expand their ability to serve their communities.
- In December, we launched our first resource bank—the Financing Healthy Food Options Resource Bank—on our website. It makes the training and resource materials used for the Financing Healthy Food Options training series offered under the Capacity Building Initiative available to the general public and members of the CDFI industry. Since then, we’ve also added Resource Banks for both the CDFI Capitalization and the Portfolio Management training series.
- In April, we released a new report, the CDFI Industry Analysis: Summary Report, which examines the state of the CDFI industry and its performance through the recent recession. The report, which was produced as part of the Capacity Building Initiative by the Center on Social Innovation and Finance at the Carsey Institute of the University of New Hampshire, explores a variety of important issues and to help CDFIs serve more people, access more funds, and increase their impact
- Last week we released a major new study, entitled Searching for Markets: The Geography of Inequitable Access to Healthy and Affordable Food, showing that 24.8 million Americans live in areas with limited supermarket access in the continental United States. This study will help CDFIs target their resources in areas of highest need.
- Finally, we are making plans to offer a number of new training series under the Capacity Building Initiative in the coming months, including series to help CDFIs that specialize in microfinance and small business build their capacity to meet the growing demand for loans.
The latest information about the Capacity Building Initiative is all available on the CDFI Fund’s website: www.cdfifund.gov/cbi.
We also continue to make substantial progress on standing up the CDFI Bond Guarantee Program, which will allow Treasury to guarantee the full amount of notes or bonds issued to support CDFIs that make investments for eligible community or economic development purposes. Information about the implementation of the program as well as program rules will be available soon.
Finally, there have been two other noteworthy changes at the CDFI Fund. First, we have just unveiled our new logo, which you can view on our website. Second, effective May 7, 2012, we have moved our offices to a new location. Like many CDFIs around the country, we have had to take a careful look at our budget and explore ways to reduce our costs. We anticipate that the move will enable us to reduce our annual expenditures on rent by about 20 percent.
Please be assured that we are doing everything we can to maintain normal operations during this period of transition. You will find complete information about our move, including both the new address for our offices and our new mailing address here.
In closing, I fully expect the rest of 2012 to be every bit as productive as these first few months have been. I look forward to continuing to work with the CDFI Fund’s stakeholders in fulfilling our mission through the end of the year.