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Finance

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HALES CORNER, Wis. — A Wisconsin-based Native community development financial institution is leveraging grant funding to create new products that serve what it sees as a coming wave of new tribal enterprises in the next few years. 

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While the numbers of mortgages extended to Native Americans jumped in 2020 as home refinancings boomed during a year of low interest rates, their share of total loans went down, Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data show.

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Cherylin Atcitty opened the Blue Room Gallery in Taos, New Mexico just prior to COVID-19 spreading across the United States. While she initially planned to sell products that she and her family made, Atcitty quickly expanded the concept to include arts and craft work from other Native American creators. 

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Native community development financial institutions have done a good job in bringing finance to Indian areas. Even so, they could do an even better job if private firms would invest in and collaborate with them, the federal government would allocate more funding to them, and banking regulators would give expanded Community Reinvestment Act credit to lenders working with Native CDFIs.

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Ask Native business owners and their advisers about the largest challenges they face, and you’re bound to hear about the chronic lack of access to capital in Indian Country.

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Opinions on the value of philanthropy differed at a recent session on American Indian finance at a rural housing conference.

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Establishing highly effective and well-funded Native community financial development institutions forms one of the critical building blocks in creating healthy and sustainable tribal economies. 

That’s a message Patrice Kunesh has heard — and delivered — many times over her distinguished career in the public, private and philanthropic sectors. 

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As the pandemic continues to disproportionately affect Native American communities, Bank of America saw a need to step up and provide critical resources. 

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To help meet the need for long-term “patient” capital in Indian Country, Native CDFI Network is establishing its own national intermediary fund to bring additional resources to Indigenous communities. 

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The Native CDFI Network wants to engage with the U.S. Department of the Treasury to discuss how the agency plans to deploy a potentially “transformational” $1.75 billion fund targeted at minority lending institutions.