A growing movement has community foundations investing in local financial institutions and development projects, empowering entrepreneurship in the underserved communities that need it most. Organizations like Self-Help or Reinvestment Fund are a part of this effort and began making headway in 1994 with the creation of the CDFI Fund. This spurred much growth in the CDFI field, with over a thousand existing in the country today.
Dominik Mjartan, President and CEO of South Carolina Community Bank. authored an op-ed in American Banker entitled "Dear Congress: Don't Gut Funding for CDFIs." "Bankers and policymakers understand that getting $12 of impact for every one dollar invested is a good return on investment," he wrote. "It’s even better if those dollars result in jobs, housing and wealth-building opportunities in underserved areas."
Fair Financial, a digital platform for the unbanked, recently launched in a pilot program to serve about 500 Twin Cities customers over the next 18 months. Anne Clark, an executive whose nonprofit is overseeing the rollout of Fair Financial, is partnering with several other organizations in the area, including Sunrise Banks. They have estalished a goal of providing 5,000 low-income customers across the country with Fair deposit accounts and small-dollar loans by 2020. What sets Fair apart in the industry is what Clark and others describe as a “bundled” suite of products for the underbanked. Customers can open low-cost checking and savings accounts, as well as take out a small-dollar loan that’s designed to help them bolster their credit scores. The accounts are provided through a cobranded partnership with Sunrise Banks, a $1.1 billion-asset community development financial institution in St. Paul.
Sunrise Banks and Twin Cities-based nonprofit Prepare + Prosper have announced a multiyear plan to provide thousands of low-income families with an alternative to payday lenders and check-cashing operators. The Financial Access in Reach (FAIR) plan is aimed at providing "financially underserved" people with access to a checking, savings and small-loan program at a modest cost. "Collaborating with Prepare + Prosper on the FAIR Initiative is giving people the tools they need to improve their financial wellness," Sunrise CEO David Reiling said in a statement. "We're setting an example for many financial institutions to follow, and working to change the way they do business."
Thanks to a $224,000 Affordable Housing Program (AHP) grant from Planters Bank & Trust and FHLB Dallas, a 42-unit apartment community in Greenville, MS is now open. The grant was awarded to the Greater Greenville Housing and Revitalization Association for the construction of the apartment community. The grant provided gap financing for the affordable housing development. The apartment complex, The Reserves of Gray Park, is Greenville's lagest single-unit housing development in over 30 years and serves individuals and families at or below 80% average median income, with 62.5% of the units reserved for very-low income residents. "At Planters Bank & Trust, we are driven in part by a deep commitment to the communities we serve and are proud to utilize the AHP to benefit these communities" said Vice President Parker England.
This article examines the rising support for public banks that would work directly with community banks and credit unions. Funding infrastructure projects through public banks would bring down costs by reducing interest and debt service payments made toward private institutions.In New York City, for example, dozens of residents and community organizers in early June gathered in front of the New York Stock Exchange to launch the Public Bank NYC Coalition, a group calling for the creation of a New York City-owned bank. Oakland and San Francisco are exploring the idea. New Jersey and Michigan are also considering setting up state-owned banks. “I think this is the sign of the sleeping giant, the American populace, taking back their agency and accountability for the banking system,” said Kat Taylor, who co-founded Oakland-based Beneficial State Bank. “It belongs to all of us.”
Approval rates for small-business loan applications ticked up at both small and large banks in May. Banks with at least $10 billion of assets approved almost 26% of small-business loans last month, according to the Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index. That is almost triple the rate in 2011 and up almost two percentage points from the approval rate a year earlier. The smaller institutions, with less than $10 billion of assets, approved 49.4% of applications, which was up from 48.8% a year ago.
The House Appropriations Committee has approved a FY19 Financial Services spending bill that would provide $216 million to the Community Development Financial Institutions program—a $25 million boost from the amount they proposed earlier this month. The Appropriations Committee approved the bill, 28-20. The $216 million is far short of the $250 million that the CDFI Fund received this year, but it exceeds the Trump Administration's request by some $202 million. The $25 million boost was proposed by Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) who made it clear that this was the first step in ensuring funding for the program.
Virginia Community Capital received a $200,000 grant over a three-year period from the Thompson Charitable Foundation, as part of a $600,000 total grant package that will be directed at supporting businesses in Southwest Virginia. The grants from the Thompson Charitable Foundation will fund up to 12 small business workshops each year in Buchanan and Tazewell counties, provide free technical advisory services, and host four Small Business Challenges in each county that will award investment grants to existing and startup companies. These regions were deeply affected by coal and manufacturing industry losses.
City First Bank, Sunrise Banks, and Beneficial State Bank are among the Certified B Corporations named as "2018 Best for the World" global honorees. The award recognizes these organizations' positive impact on communities, the economy, their workers, and more. The full B Impact Assessment evaluates a company's environmental performance, employee relationships, diversity, involvement in the local community, and impact of a company's product or service. To become a Best for the World honoree, a company must score in the top 10 percent of Certified BCorps across the category areas of the assessment.