Native CDFIS Helping Build Sustainable Communities
A major cause of poverty in Native communities is the persistent lack of opportunity and resources. Per capita, Native Americans receive disproportionately lower funding for federally administered services and programs, according to a 2003 study by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Native communities have historically been ‘underbanked’ and subject to predatory lending. Many are located in rural areas, which can further limit access to capital and jobs, resulting in high unemployment rates. Recognizing the need to increase the access to capital and build assets in Native communities, First Nations Oweesta was founded to provide financing initiatives to help Native communities create jobs, build housing, and promote economic independence.
In 2018, Oweesta, a CDFI intermediary, launched a first-of-its-kind $10 million Native Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Capital Pool to help Native CDFIs meet capital demands and grow economic prosperity in Native communities. Oweesta requested a $500,000 low-interest, long-term loan from Enterprise Community Loan Fund.
In a collaborative effort, Loan Fund combined its investment with Bank of America, Wells Fargo and multiple foundations and socially-driven investors, including $1 million in equity from the Northwest Area Foundation, to form the $10 million pool. Oweesta is using the capital to provide loans to 13 Native CDFIs serving Native communities through the country. In turn, those CDFIs are financing small businesses, community facilities, housing, and consumer loans. Each participating CDFI also contributed capital to the pool.
Currently, all $10 million has been deployed to Native CDFIs, and nearly half of that has already been invested by those Native CDFIs. So far, 11 new businesses have been launched, more than 80 jobs created or preserved, and new investors are infusing capital into previously underinvested communities. In addition, 12 homes have been financed, helping 9 families become homeowners.
Oweesta’s approach is an example of true community development while demonstrating that investing in Native communities is good business. The success of this program is also showing a scalable concept of increasing access to capital to marginalized groups. The program includes over 8 different loan programs operating under this initiative including consumer, agriculture, and small business financing programs.
As a supporter, we are excited to help fund jobs, promote small business, and build assets in Native communities through this capital investment.
We encourage interested investors to contact First Nations Oweesta directly to explore opportunities to invest in Indian Country: please contact Krystal Langholz at firstname.lastname@example.org.