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Funds available to assist Native development groups

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WASHINGTON ? Community development financial institutions (CDFI) serving Native populations and areas received about $3 million of the more than $100 million awarded by the federal CDFI Fund.

The largest award went to the New Mexico Community Development Loan Fund, Albuquerque, for $1,035,000. The fund targets American Indians in New Mexico, among others.

Next largest was for $1 million, to the Hawai'i Community Loan Fund, Honolulu, which targets Native Hawai'ians. First Nations Oweesta Corp., Fredericksburg, Va., was awarded $194,500. It hopes to act as an intermediary to encourage other Native groups to become CDFIs.

Four Bands Community Fund Inc., Eagle Butte, S.D., received $150,500 for its efforts to develop the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. For the last year it offered business development classes focusing on creation of a successful business plan and recently started family financial planning and credit analysis classes.

Four Bands provides technical assistance and consultation to budding entrepreneurs, established business owners, tribal programs and non-profit organizations.

'This latest award to our organization from CDFI means a lot to the Lakota tribal members we serve and the kinds of sovereign, nation-building initiatives that these kinds of self-starters really stand for,' said Four Bands Chairman Bill Picotte.

Four Directions Development Corp., Old Town, Maine, received $57,000 to help develop housing for the Penobscot Tribe.

And Blackfeet National Bank, Browning, Mont., received an award of $132,000. Blackfeet National has just been acquired by Native American National Bank, based in Denver.

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In addition, funds are available to help American Indian and Alaska Native groups qualify as community development financial institutions and get access to the fund that exceeded $100 million for the last several years.

The Notice of Funds Availability invites applications for technical assistance to create Native CDFIs, and $5 million has been set aside by the federal CDFI Fund (a unit of the U.S. Treasury) for this purpose.

However, the appropriations bills containing the set asides had not been passed by Congress as of deadline.

The notice says the fund reserves the right to award in excess of $3.5 million in this round, providing funds are appropriated. The upper limit stated is $43.5 million.

In research on Native lending the fund found that one of the barriers to such lending is the small number of groups that try to create economic development in Indian country. It says it anticipates making grants up to $100,000 to any one institution under this program.

Eligible institutions include existing CDFIs, tribal entities or technical assistance providers specializing in Native finance.

Deadline for applications is Jan. 24, 2002. Applications are available from CDFI Fund Awards Manager, Bureau of Public Debt-Franchising, 200 Third Street, Room 211, Parkersburg WV 26101.

The CDFI Fund Native lending study, commissioned under the Clinton administration, is said to be completed and awaiting release at any time. It focuses on the barriers to lending in Native areas and strategies to overcome those barriers.