The Uplift America Fund was a partnership that leveraged federal resources, bank financing, and private grants to target much-needed capital to persistently low-wealth areas. It made low-interest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans and private grant support available to community lenders, particularly community development financial institutions (CDFIs), that fund in economically distressed areas of Appalachia, the Texas-Mexico border, the rural South and Native American reservations.
These funds were used for community facilities projects like health clinics, schools, libraries, food banks, municipal buildings, and child care centers. Uplift provided an unprecedented opportunity for experienced community lenders to deploy large amounts of capital to areas of greatest need while building their own capacity and scale of operations so they can remain enduring resources for rural communities. This model leveraged existing infrastructure and expertise to tailor place-based solutions, and it served as a template for other federal partners to structure investment in underserved areas.
How It Worked
The USDA had announced updates to its Community Facilities Loan Program “that allow the Agency to make direct loans to eligible lending institutions (referred to as ‘re-lenders’) who then will re-loan the funds to eligible applicants for eligible community facility projects.” Through the Community Facilities Relending Program, the USDA could provide up to $500 million in long-term, very low-cost financing for CDFIs to facilitate much-needed infrastructure projects in communities that have suffered for decades from persistent poverty and underinvestment.
Uplift provided additional financial ingredients that allowed community lenders to access these funds and increase the chance they will make a difference. Private grants offered critical capacity-building support like staffing, technical assistance or community planning, and net-asset assistance to strengthen balance sheets and allowed borrowing of these resources. Financial guarantees from banks made community lenders more attractive to USDA.
Challenging market conditions and pressures for short-term profits sometimes make rural communities difficult investment opportunities. Structural barriers such as racism, political dysfunction, and inadequate service delivery systems compound these problems, resulting in high poverty and unemployment. Challenging economic circumstances, limited time and staff capacity, and rigorous eligibility requirements conspire to impede the flow of USDA resources to the areas that need them most.
Despite these issues, rural communities have deep and meaningful assets, including millions of people with local knowledge, passion, and skills. Smart and adequate investment can develop these assets and ignite the potential in economically distressed places. Uplift was an initiative that improved employment, education, health, and housing outcomes for families in underserved places by catalyzing substantial, targeted investment in community infrastructure.
Unlocking Investment in Rural America
The Uplift America Fund was made possible by contributions of the following partners.
USDA Rural Development
USDA Rural Development helps improve the economy and quality of life in rural America through loans, grants, and loan guarantees to support essential services such as housing, economic development, health care, first responder services and equipment, and water, electric, and communications infrastructure. Uplift America is an effort to deepen its record of partnerships that serve as sustainable resources to rural communities most in need.
Bank of America
Bank of America is a leading provider of capital for community development financial institutions (CDFIs); with a portfolio of more than $1.3 billion in loans, investments, and capital grants to more than 240 CDFIs operating in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Bank of America is a Participating Guarantor in this USDA Community Facilities Program, willing to provide the required guarantees to allow CDFIs to qualify for $500 million in USDA loan capital.
Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation is a private, non-operating family foundation based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, helping to move people and places out of poverty across the South. The Foundation is experienced in grantmaking and investing for the purpose of bolstering the capacity of development lenders in low-wealth areas. MRBF serves as Uplift America’s grants manager, reviewing applications and distributing funds to qualifying community lenders.
Opportunity Finance Network (OFN)
Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), the national network of community development financial institutions (CDFIs), strives to ensure low-income and other under-resourced communities have access to affordable, responsible financial products and services. OFN is assisting in the coordination of the partners.
Twenty-six community lenders serving rural areas across the country have been awarded Community Facilities Relending Program loans. Twenty of them have also received Uplift Fund grants.
Uplift America Grantees
Uplift America Grantees
Community Facilities Loan Recipients
View annual reports providing insight on the Uplift America program.
2019 Progress Report
2019 Progress Report
In the 2019 Uplift Progress Report, Opportunity Finance Network and Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation share updates from the program, including the status of projects started and those in the pipeline and the importance of CDFIs in the Uplift partnership. Click below to learn more about how Uplift is making an impact in rural communities across America.
2018 Progress Report
2018 Progress Report
To document the successes and lessons learned in the second year of Uplift America, Opportunity Finance Network and Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation released a 2018 Progress Report. The report takes a closer look at the highlights of the program in 2018, the projects in the pipeline, and the importance of CDFIs in the Uplift partnership. Click below to learn more about how Uplift is making an impact in rural communities across America.
2017 Progress Report
2017 Progress Report
To document the successes and lessons learned in the first year of Uplift America, Opportunity Finance Network and the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation released a 2017 Progress Report. The report takes a closer look at the highlights of the program in 2017, the projects in the pipeline, and the importance of CDFIs in the Uplift partnership. Click below to learn more about how Uplift is making an impact in rural communities across America.
Lenders participating in the Uplift America Partnership developed a pipeline of dozens of community facilities projects in economically distressed rural counties across the country. These projects included a wildlife center, YMCA, health care clinics, hospitals, assisted living facilities, public safety facilities, schools, libraries, community centers, grocery stores, and more.
Coastal Enterprises, Inc.
Central Lincoln County YMCA
Maine’s Central Lincoln County YMCA underwent a renovation and expansion with the help of Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI). CEI made a $2.46M Community Facilities loan to the YMCA, which raised additional money through a fundraising campaign. The YMCA has been a community hub for decades, serving 22,000 residents from ten communities, but the facility was aging and needed upgrades to continue meeting the needs of its members. The project involved an upgrade of the aging facilities as well as the addition of a fitness center, a teaching kitchen, and space to house two local nonprofits. The renovation was completed in April 2018.
You can read more about the YMCA here.
Seedlings to Sunflowers
Seedlings to Sunflowers is a nonprofit offering childcare and education to children ages six weeks to five years as well as before and after school care programs for children ages five to ten. They offer a comprehensive daycare setting that caters to early childhood development. Seedlings to Sunflowers focuses on experiential learning at all ages and stages of development through arts, crafts, music, movement, reading, writing, dance, nutrition, and culinary activities. Coastal Enterprises, Inc. committed just under $1.5 million toward a new facility for the Seedlings to Sunflowers childcare facility. With the new facility, Seedlings to Sunflowers will serve up to 80 children annually, meeting the childcare needs of families in Gorham, Maine, and surrounding communities.
Craft3 and Coastal Enterprises, Inc.
Ko-Kwel Wellness Center
Coquilla Indian Tribe, Coos Bay, and North Bend, Oregon The Coquille Indian Tribe is a federally recognized Tribe with approximately 1,100 members in Coos Bay and North Bend, Oregon. CDFIs Craft3 and Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) committed a $7 million loan to the Coquille Indian Tribe that the tribe will leverage into a New Markets Tax Credit structure to finance the expansion of the Ko-Kwel Wellness Center. Once the project is completed, the wellness center will be the first tribal health center in Oregon to offer primary care, mental healthcare, dental, alternative, and pharmaceutical services all under one roof. Nearly 50 percent of the Native population is low-wealth and Medicaid eligible, with an unemployment rate of 17.4 percent. The wellness center will serve the Native community as well as the general public—offering another option for those struggling to find a primary healthcare provider in the area. The expansion is expected to increase the capacity of the health facility to allow an additional 14,000 patient visits every year. Construction will begin in 2020.
Dakota Resources / Rural Electric Economic Development
Andes Central School District
The Andes Central School District in Lake Andes, SD will be receiving Community Facilities loans from two community lenders, Dakota Resources and Rural Electric Economic Development, Inc., to consolidate the existing elementary and junior/senior high schools into one facility. Each lender will provide a loan of up to $4,875,000 to the school district, which, along with internal sources, will cover the cost of constructing the new school. The small community of Lake Andes, located in a persistent poverty county, has a median household income of $21,000 and is 43% Native American. Construction began in the fall of 2017 and is projected to be completed by late 2018 or early 2019.
Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation
Dayspring Health, Inc.
When Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation (KHIC), a CDFI serving Southeastern Kentucky, began working with Dayspring Health, Inc., KHIC immediately recognized Dayspring was a perfect fit for the Uplift America Fund. Dayspring is a Federally Qualified Health Center that wanted to open a new dental clinic at its Williamsburg, Kentucky location. With the help of KHIC, Dayspring was able to make leasehold improvements to the property in order to prepare the facility for the dental clinic, as well as purchase and install all dental equipment for the facility. KHIC made an initial $500,000 loan for working capital followed by a second $775,000 Uplift America loan for leasehold improvements and equipment purchases. Dayspring can now offer a full range of dental services for all ages at this location. Services include exams, cleanings, fillings, extractions, root canals, and crowns. The dental clinic offers a sliding fee scale for qualifying patients and plans to offer evening and weekend hours to accommodate clients’ diverse work schedules.
Miles City Fire Training Station
MoFi (formerly Montana & Idaho CDC) is providing a $250,000 Community Facilities loan to construct a new fire training station in Miles City, MT. The existing training facility is inadequate, so the new one will provide for more advanced trainings and eliminate the need for firefighters to be sent statewide to train. Construction is expected to be completed in the summer of 2018.
Missouri River Medical Center
Built in 1959, the Missouri River Medical Center is a critical access hospital and rural health clinic in Fort Benton, on the banks of the Missouri River in north-central Montana. The hospital serves nearly 400 patients a year in a community with a countywide population of just under 6,000 residents. Since its last major remodel was in 1974, the hospital was in dire need of updated building systems to stem increasing operating costs. Utilizing CF Relending, MoFi committed $1.2 million to install new heating, cooling, and water systems. The hospital estimates these updates will reduce energy costs by up to $50,000 per year and allow them to continue providing high-quality medical services
to Fort Benton and the surrounding areas.
York Fire Services
The York Fire Service Area is one of the nine rural fire service areas run by volunteer firefighters in Lewis and Clark County, Montana. The large area and mountainous nature of the fire service area make it difficult to respond to emergencies without a well-located fire station. MoFi, a CDFI serving the Northern Rockies, has committed a $225,000 loan to help the York Fire Service Area build a new fire station that stores equipment in a more accessible and central location in the York Fire Service Area. The new station will allow firefighters to greatly improve response times in the service area.
Rural Community Assistance Corporation
Livingston Health Care Campus
Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) is providing a $6.6M Community Facilities loan to LCHS Foundation, Inc. (LCHS) to expand and relocate clinical and support staff to its new three-building campus, covering over 38,000 square feet on seven acres of land. LCHS, located in Merced County, CA, is a nonprofit healthcare provider that serves many of the low-income, uninsured agricultural workers and migrant families in the community. The new campus will include a medical center, a dental and optometry building, and an administrative facility. The project is expected to create 50 construction jobs and 59 permanent jobs. Along with RCAC’s loan, LCHS is receiving New Markets Tax Credit funding and a loan from Northern California Community Loan Fund. Construction is expected to be completed in early 2019.
From left to right: Belin Marcus (Midwife), Simone Jaramillo (Apprentice Midwife), Jeanette Tsosie (Receptionist/doula/lactation educator) and Jessica Frechette-Gutfreund (ED/Midwife).
Breath of My Heart Birthplace
RCAC is providing a $310,000 Community Facilities loan to Breath of My Heart Birthplace, a midwifery practice based in Espanola, NM. Breath of My Heart Birthplace, whose mission is to address maternal and infant health disparities in multicultural communities of Northern New Mexico through a midwifery model of care, will be acquiring and renovating a housing unit to use as a birthing center. The new center will be located in a high-poverty area, with 25% of the population living under the poverty line. Construction on the project is expected to be completed in late 2018.
Eastern Plumas Health Care District
Eastern Plumas Health Care (EPHC), a nonprofit health care district, will be expanding its medical clinic facility in Portola, CA, with the help of a $2.8M Community Facilities loan from RCAC. The existing clinic will undergo remodeling, and there will also be a 6,178 sq. ft. addition, primarily for EPHC’s new behavioral health program. The addition will house a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and a Behavioral Health Case Manager. In addition to RCAC’s loan, the renovation and expansion will be financed through a PRIME grant and EPHC’s own funds. Construction is projected to be completed in late 2018.
South Carolina Community Loan Fund
OCSD 5 High School for Health Professions
The South Carolina Community Loan Fund committed a $3,825,000 loan to OCSD 5 to cover the cost of acquiring real estate to serve as the new home for the school. The new facility offers state-of-the-art technology, including learning labs where students can gain hands-on experience in a variety of medical disciplines and a computer lab offering students access to technologically advanced computer equipment. The 16,500-square-foot space is situated on more than seven acres of land that will allow the school to expand as needed. The school enrolls 372 students, 99 percent of whom receive free/reduced lunch. The school boasts a 98.5 percent graduation rate over its nine years of operation and many of its graduates have gone on to be the first students in their families to attend college.