OFN held a briefing on the CDFI industry February 1 for more than 50 Capitol Hill staffers from House and Senate offices from both sides of the aisle. The discussion, titled “How CDFIs Use Public and Private Resources to Stimulate Economic Development in Rural, Urban, and Native Communities,” featured testimonials from two OFN Members and three borrowers.

Since Congress had recently returned to session after a month break, this was a great opportunity for Hill staffers to start the year hearing from practitioners and borrowers how CDFIs lend in underserved communities across the U.S.

OFN Members Jim King, CEO and President, Fahe, and Peter Grof, Deputy to the President, New Jersey Community Capital (NJCC) discussed how CDFIs leverage private capital to match competitive CDFI Fund grants. Erik Brinkman from The Morning Jump Coffee Company (Carolina Small Business Development Fund) shared the difficulties he’s had in accessing start-up and growth capital for his small business. Karen Jacobson of Randolph County Housing Authority (Fahe) and Pat Morrissy from HANDS, Inc. (NJCC) discussed their challenges in stabilizing communities through real estate acquisitions. 

In addition to providing a general overview of the CDFI industry and the importance of the CDFI Fund, the briefing had a lively discussion of more in depth questions related to CDFIs. Some questions Hill staff asked the panelists included whether or not there is a secondary market available for economic development loans, what are the challenges CDFIs face when trying to find funding for products that are outside traditional financing services, and what impact tax reform will have on the New Markets Tax Credit.

To support our team’s meetings on the Hill, OFN launched a timely social media effort to educate Congress, focusing on CDFI successes with the #CDFIstory. CDFIs across the country rallied to the call, demonstrating national impact and testimonials beyond those on site. Look for our recap!

With so many new members of Congress and changes in committee leadership, this first step in educating Hill staff about why full funding for the CDFI Fund is crucial in FY17 and FY18 was particularly timely and critical. OFN will continue to call on our Members to engage with and educate the 115th Congress about CDFIs in the coming weeks. Although this effort continues year-round, these early inroads are critical. Keep an eye on OFN’s blog and social media for the next call to action, and don’t forget to register for OFN’s Advocacy Day, May 16-17


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