Three dozen native CDFIs in the works?

WASHINGTON - While only a handful of American Indian community development financial institutions have been certified to date, that number is about to take a quantum leap, as 36 entities interested in starting a Native CDFI have gotten seed money from the federal government.

More than $2.5 million has been awarded to the three dozen tribes, tribal entities, or technical assistance providers that won TA money in the federal CDFI Fund's first NACTA (Native American CDFI Technical Assistance) round.

A total of $5 million was set aside from the CDFI Fund's 2001 funding to start the NACTA effort. Its charter is to start or strengthen CDFIs (which loan to or invest in underserved communities) that primarily serve a Native American or Alaska Native population.

Not all of the setaside for awards has been granted. Tony Brown, CDFI Fund Director, told Congress in April that $3.5 million of the 2001 grant would be available for awards, and $1.5 million for training.

Another $5 million, set aside in 2002, will fund another round in 2003. And $5 million more is pending for fiscal 2003.

Examples of Native groups that are certified CDFIs include the Lakota Fund, Kyle, SD, the Hopi Credit Association, Keams Canyon, Ariz., and the Four Bands Community Fund, Eagle Butte, SD.

Two of these, Alaska Growth BIDCO Inc. of Alaska, and First Nations Oweesta Corp. of Virginia, won regular or "core" grants from the CDFI Fund, which were announced at the same time as the NACTA grants. The Alaska firm was awarded $1.525 million, and the Virginia group $250,000.

Grants range from $100,000 to a low of $25,000. Tribes getting grants include the Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Oklahoma ($45,000); the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis, Washington ($83,000); the Hannaville Indian Community, Michigan, ($50,000); Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, ($70,200); the Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, ($75,000); the Osage Nation of Oklahoma ($50,000); the Prairie Band of Potawatomi, Kansas, ($25,000); the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, ($100,000); and the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota ($50,000).

Other well-known grantees include the Navajo Partnership for Housing of Arizona ($96,000), the newly-chartered Native American National Bank of Colorado ($70,000); the newly chartered Chickasaw Bank Holding Co. of Oklahoma ($100,000); and the United South and Eastern Tribes of Tennessee ($35,000).

One interesting grant is to a newly-chartered Native credit union, the Lac Courte Oreilles Federal Credit Union of Wisconsin, which received $25,800. There are only a handful of Native credit unions scattered around the country.

Eligible institutions for NACTA money include current Native CDFIs (of which there are about ten); tribes, tribal entities, or non-profits that want to start a Native CDFI, and technical assistance providers. Maximum award is set at $100,000.

A NOFA (notice of funds availability) is set to be posted for the 2003 NACTA money in late September or early October at the agency's website, www.treas.gov/cdfi.