Earlier this year, OFN and a number of OFN Members, Allies, and partners came together to submit a letter to the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico "to underscore the urgent need to develop a strong and sustainable small business ecosystem with responsible partners such as CDFIs."
This week, the Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico released a report to the House and Senate.
The concepts submitted to Congress in OFN's letter are embedded throughout the SBA (p. 46) and CDFI Fund (p. 67) sections of the report. Some important outcomes of this report:
1. Members of the Task Force were able to learn about OFN, and our work on this issue, through Congressional meetings with both CDFI Fund and MBDA representatives,
2. OFN was specifically mentioned in the report, and,
3. There were some very specific recommendations made to the Fund that will allow for further engagement of OFN Members through our public policy, membership, and knowledge sharing divisions.
In particular, we would like to highlight this excerpt, from page 67 "Although there are CDFIs based in the states that have made important investments in Puerto Rico, that does not diminish the need for additional Puerto Rico-based CDFIs that are familiar with Puerto Rico’s particular economic and social needs and are focused exclusively on community development on the island. Puerto Rico has among the fewest CDFIs per capita of any state, and the fewest CDFIs per capita when the population is limited to individuals living below the federal poverty level. The Task Force recommends that the CDFI Fund take all reasonable steps to increase the number of CDFIs in Puerto Rico and the other territories, consistent with the House Appropriations Committee’s language to that effect in the report accompanying the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2017.95.'
"The Task Force further recommends that the CDFI Fund, as part of its Capacity Building Initiative, conduct at least one outreach event in Puerto Rico in the near future, something the Fund has not done to date. In addition, the Task Force recommends that the CDFI Fund continue its ongoing work with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Opportunity Finance Network (a member-based organization of CDFIs), and other stakeholders to expand the number of CDFIs in Puerto Rico and to improve their capacity to apply for, obtain and make optimal use of CDFI Fund awards. Finally, the Task Force notes that there are 11 credit unions in Puerto Rico that are insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and that, in January 2016, the CDFI Fund and the NCUA signed a memorandum of understanding to streamline the process for low-income credit unions to be certified as CDFIs. The Task Force recommends that the CDFI Fund take steps to educate the 11 NCUA-insured credit unions in Puerto Rico about the potential benefits of becoming a certified CDFI and about the process that exists for low-income credit unions to become certified on an expedited basis."
We would like to thank our OFN Members, Allies, and partners in this effort:
- Annie Donovan, Director of the CDFI Fund
- Alejandra Castillo, National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency, US Dept of Commerce
- Tony Davis and Javier Silva, Federal Reserve Bank of NY
- Eric Hagen, Research in partnership with the Carsey Institute for Public Policy, and Michael Swack, Director, Center for Impact Finance at Carsey
- Florida Community Loan Fund
- Community First Fund