Native CDFI Network
Yesterday, the Native CDFI Network (NCN) released its impact report, “Native CDFI’s: Stepping up to Serve Indian Country through the Pandemic and Beyond.” In the early days of the pandemic last year, the organization realized the effects of the crisis went beyond the health and safety of tribal citizens. Native CDFI Network recognized that it would need to play a significant role in helping ease the economic pain in Indian Country due to the pandemic and shut down. Native CDFI Network leaders sprang into action to deal with the unprecedented financial challenges for tribal business enterprises’ survival.
Pete Upton, board chair of the Native CDFI Network, said, “For Native CDFI Network, the immediate mission focused on helping members deal with the crisis and share best practices.” Upton credits Native CDFI Network Executive Director Jackson Brossy for taking the lead in finding members the resources they needed to help their clients survive and for bringing a sense of calm to a chaotic situation. “I remember Jackson and I just having a conversation and saying that we need to take a deep breath and step up and bring the resources to the table for everyone. A lot of times, resources might not necessarily be financial resources,” Upton said. “Everybody was in the forest, and they couldn’t see outside the forest. What we wanted to do was create a path outside of all the chaos.”
Native CDFI team members put in long hours to work with customers and clients left economically vulnerable by business closures, stay-at-home mandates, layoffs, added costs and supply chain pressures — even the virus itself. Native CDFIs are built on community relationships. So when the community was hurting, staff at Native CDFIs across Indian Country needed to find ways to step up and help. And they did, piloting new programs, connecting clients to various resources and working with them creatively to make their financial commitments less burdensome as they focused on healing — economically, physically, and spiritually.
Native CDFI Network began regular communications with its members and financial experts to address the problems. In mid-March 2020, the Native CDFI Network launched a weekly series of web calls for its members. Participants included Congressional representatives and committee staffers, federal government policymakers and experts. Native CDFI Network also partnered with and sought commitment and advice from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Northwest Area Foundation, Wells Fargo, Citibank, the U.S. Small Business Administration, U.S. Treasury, NeighborWorks America, National Congress of American Indians, Native American Finance Officers Association, Opportunity Finance Network, and the Oweesta Corporation amongst others.
“We took a positive approach to work through the pandemic,” Brossy said. “We brought in to the conversation folks that could help us navigate different federal programs set up to assist not only the small businesses but also Native CDFIs. Our primary focus was giving the CDFIs the resources to help their customers and small business clients, whether it be through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, the SBA offered, or state programs that were being offered.”
Native CDFI Network members needed increased access to capital for home loans, small business loans, consumer loans and agriculture loans. Each CDFI may focus on one or two of those products, but Native CDFI Network focused on all of these loan instruments instead of one. By bringing all the resources to those Native CDFIs, they could walk through the tough times they were having and weather through the pandemic.
Above all, they stayed open and responded to client needs with loan forbearance, new products and new service levels. Now, they are poised to serve their communities in more significant ways than ever before.
Native CDFI Network and its members will convene for the first time in person since the pandemic hit at its Annual Policy and Capacity Building Summit September 14-15 in Washington, DC. The event could go virtual if necessary, depending upon COVID-19 guidelines.
About the Native CDFI Network
The Native CDFI Network was formed in 2009 to unify Native CDFIs serving Native trust land communities, American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians. The Native CDFI Network seeks to create opportunities to share our stories, identify our collective priorities and strengthen our industry. In addition, the Native CDFI Network works to ensure that Native peoples are represented in the national policy dialogue, and innovative solutions created by CDFIs are spread throughout our Native communities. As a strong national network, the Native CDFI Network empowers its members to engage our best ideas, connect to one another, and collectively advance policy priorities that foster systemic and sustainable Native community and economic development.