Local Impact
CDFIs Serve People with Disabilities

The US Census Bureau defines disability as a long-lasting physical, mental, or emotional condition. This condition can make it difficult for a person to do activities such as walking, climbing stairs, dressing, bathing, learning, or remembering, which can impede a person’s ability to go outside the home alone or to work at a job or business. Vision impairment, mental illness, diseases such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis are examples of disabilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability. Further, the United States Census Bureau reports that in 2019, over three million children (4.3% of the under-18 population) in the United States had a disability.

Adults and children with disabilities must often overcome difficulties in attending school, securing job training, and finding stable housing. According to the National Council on Disability, people with disabilities live in poverty at more than twice the rate of people without disabilities. Additional challenges faced by individuals with disabilities include:

  • Students with disabilities graduate from high school at rates nearly 20% lower than students without disabilities;
  • People with disabilities make up approximately 12% of the population; but account for more than half of those living in long-term poverty; and
  • More than 65% of the 17.9 million working-age adults with disabilities participate in at least one safety net or income support program.

The Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) began making Disability Funds-Financial Assistance (DF-FA) awards in FY 2018 to provide technical and financial assistance to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) that specifically fund projects to help individuals with disabilities. CDFIs use DF-FA Awards in the communities they serve to fund organizations and projects that provide assistance to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities. This assistance provides support for:

  • pre-development, acquisition, rehabilitation, and permanent financing to support the creation and preservation of supportive affordable housing and community facilities;
  • consumer loans for assistive technology and adaptive technology purchases;
  • small business loans for businesses that are owned by and/or employ individuals with disabilities; and
  • loans to nonprofits that serve the greater needs of the disability community.

To receive a DF-FA award, CDFIs must demonstrate a track record of providing loans to and investing in the disability community. Collectively, the most recent round of DF-FA Award Recipients (fiscal year 2021) have closed more than $246 million in affordable housing, community facility, consumer financial products, small business, and other loans that have benefitted individuals with disabilities over the past three years.[i] Since FY 2018, the CDFI Fund has awarded nearly $18 million in awards to CDFIs (see table below).

Disability Funds-Financial Assistance

Fiscal Year

# Applicants

$ Amount Requested

# Award Recipients

$ Amount Awarded



$15.2 million


$5 million



$10.1 million


$2.99 million



$10.4 million


$4 million



$10.9 million


$6 million


 The impact of DF-FA Award Recipient lending has been far-reaching. CDFI lending support includes: 

  1. In 2021, Clearinghouse CDFI provided Bay Area Housing Corporation, a nonprofit corporation that supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, with $570,000 in financing to purchase and retrofit a single-story home for children with special needs. These children will benefit from living in a normal home environment complete with staff that are trained to meet their specific needs. Also in 2021, Clearinghouse provided $820,000 in loans to Brilliant Corners, a California nonprofit organization creating supportive housing solutions for low-income, developmentally disabled, and other at-risk individuals, to purchase a single-family house where developmentally disabled children with excessive behavioral impairments can receive specialized care. Clearinghouse is a Certified CDFI that has reported providing nearly $2 billion in financing and assistance in distressed and underserved communities across the country.
  2. In 2022, the Nonprofit Finance Fund provided $250,000 in bridge funding to the Special Needs Network (SNN), an organization that provides therapeutic, medical and developmental services to people with autism and other developmental disabilities, particularly in underserved minority communities. Financing will be used to support the growing organization’s move to a new headquarters facility in the new MLK Community Hospital in South Los Angeles. This will include new furnishings and necessary improvements. This support will allow the SNN to provide services to more people with autism and other developmental disabilities. The Nonprofit Finance Fund is a Certified CDFI with a mission to help mission-driven organizations achieve communities’ aspirations through tailored capital, strategic advice, and accessible insights. 
  3. Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF), a statewide non-profit organization, is a Certified CDFI that provides financing opportunities, education, and advocacy for people with disabilities and older Pennsylvanians to acquire assistive technology (AT) devices and services to improve their quality of life. AT includes things, such as adapted vehicles, computers, software, smart home technology, adapted sports equipment, hearing aids, home modifications, scooters and wheelchairs, as well as service and maintenance. PATF provides this support through low-interest and zero interest, no-fee loans, and by providing free information and assistance about possible AT funding resources. The organization received CDFI Fund DF-FA Awards of $169,000 in 2019 and $300,000 in 2018 to increase its community impact.

The aforementioned CDFIs and CDFIs in general have provided financial and technical assistance to support organizations dedicated to helping the disabled live a better life and look forward to a brighter future. This strengthens the individuals, the communities they live in, and the country as a whole. 

Gail Thomas is a Communications Specialist with the CDFI Fund's Office of Legislative and External Affairs.

[i] As reported in their FY 2021 Applications. Loans closed during the Applicant’s three most recent historic fiscal years. For more information on FY 2021 DF-FA recipients, see the CDFI Program FY 2021 Award Book.