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Extension gives groups more time on development money

WASHINGTON -- Native community development groups are getting an extra
couple of weeks to apply for federal assistance from a program that in 2005
granted more than $4 million to American Indian groups for economic

The Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, a unit of the U.S.
Treasury, announced it will accept applications for 2006 funding under its
Native American CDFI Assistance, or NACA, program until March 1. That date
is a two-week extension from the original Feb. 14 deadline.

The fund, in a notice of funds availability published in the Federal
Register, said it expects to award approximately $3.5 million to Native
groups this year through NACA.

For fiscal 2005, CDFI funds made $3.45 million in awards to 22 Native
groups. In addition, two other groups planning to invest in Native
communities received more than $1.1 million in aid through a non-targeted
general assistance program. Nine applications were not funded.

The 22 groups are located in 13 states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Maine,
Michigan, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota,
Washington and Wisconsin.

Three types of groups received NACA assistance: groups that have already
been certified as Native CDFIs (six), eight that will use technical
assistance money to become certified CDFIs and eight "sponsoring entities"
that want to start new Native CDFIs.

Assistance ranges from $40,880 for the Cherokee Nation Economic Development
Trust Authority of Tahlequah, Okla., to $650,000 for the Citizen Potawatomi
Community Development Corp. of Shawnee, Okla. The Tahlequah group will use
the funds for staff training, salary expenditures and technology, while the
Shawnee group plans to use the funds to expand to Kansas and increase its
loan offerings.

The biggest grant went to a group not in NACA but in the general CDFI Fund
awards: Community Development Bank, in Ogema, Minn. CDB, located on the
White Earth reservation serving local farmers and tribal members, received
$877,800 to establish the Native and Emerging Markets Fund, "a $2 million
loan pool to make home mortgage and consumer loans to low-income minorities
on the White Earth Reservation and in the nearby rural community of
Blackduck." The group also got a $50,000 Technical Assistance Award.

The second grant from the non-NACA fund went to Sovereign Leasing and
Financing Inc. of Ronan, Mont. This group received $300,000 as equity for
lending activities that target business and members of the Confederated
Salish and Kootenai tribes living on the Flathead reservation.

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Other hefty 2005 grants include $525,000 for the Four Directions
Development Corp., Orono, Maine; and $420,000 for First American Capital
Corp., West Allis, Wis.

Four Directions, which serves the four tribes of Maine through affordable
housing and business financing, will use $425,000 for loan capital and the
rest to support operations.

First American, an affiliate of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of
Wisconsin, also tries to stimulate Indian-owned businesses and will use its
award to make more loans.

The next-largest grant, $150,000, went to the Turtle Mountain Housing
Authority of Belcourt, N.D., for consulting services and technology.

The fiscal year 2005 totals are only about half of what Native groups got
in 2004. The CDFI Fund made 41 awards for $8.5 million in local economic
development that year.

Also in 2004, Native American Bank became the first Native-owned commercial
bank to receive an award under the CDFI Fund's Bank Enterprise Awards. The
bank has offices in Denver and Browning, Mont.

A second program, called the New Markets Tax Credit, is being administered
by the CDFI Fund. NMTC will benefit Native groups. And in a recent round of
funding, one Native group, Alaska Growth Capital BIDCO in Anchorage,
Alaska, was allocated $35 million in credits.

CDFIs make loans in or invest in economically distressed areas. Some of the
better-known Indian CDFIs include the Lakota Fund, Kyle, S.D., and the Hopi
Credit Association, Keems Canyon, Ariz. Rare until recent years, the
government has invested time and money into getting local groups certified
as Native CDFIs and thus eligible for money from the fund.

Interestingly, the Federal Register's funds availability notice raised the
possibility that there would be no funding for NACA in fiscal 2007.
Although it set a deadline of Feb. 14, 2007 for applications, it warned
that funds for 2007 may be less than for 2006, or none at all.