A Message from Lisa Mensah: #KeepCDFIsStrong
Above all else, I hope that you are taking care to stay healthy and well in this uncertain time.
COVID-19 is proving to be a formidable enemy. It’s made its way around the world with relentless efficiency, hitting small businesses and low-income, low-wealth communities the hardest.
There are many forces galvanizing to help these businesses and communities during and after the pandemic. Among the most well-positioned of them are CDFIs.
Financial First Responders
CDFIs are America’s “financial first responders” in a crisis. From 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina, Super Storm Sandy to Hurricane Harvey, we have proven our resilience and ability to support underserved communities in rural, urban, and Native communities survive and rebound after disaster.
Every day, I hear stories from OFN’s member CDFIs. It’s so clear to me that from the smallest CDFIs to the largest, our members are finding creative ways to help small businesses, consumers, and nonprofits weather COVID-19—even as the CDFIs themselves are impacted by it.
From the earliest days of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., OFN’s 282 member CDFIs knew we’d be a trusted and looked-to resource for current borrowers and new ones. As the virus takes hold, our network must now fight to be part of the public and private resources being organized and deployed nationwide.
This is a fight I’m proud to be part of. And I’m proud to be in it with a team of OFN staff, who are working tirelessly to support our members; I’m proud to be in it with our members, who are working around the clock for their communities.
We are lenders used to assessing risk and proud of portfolios that often outperform traditional finance. Even still, this crisis will test us. We must work together to lift each other, with the battle cry “Keep CDFIs Strong.” Our weapons are advocacy, innovation, and tremendous heart and doggedness.
Tools to Fight
Our Public Policy, Knowledge Sharing, and Membership teams are creating new opportunities for OFN’s membership and the CDFI industry to connect over this shared purpose.
I also want to share that OFN leadership is in regular communication with partners, funders, and investors as we pursue expanded and new financing to support short-term recovery and provide long-term financing for CDFIs serving small businesses, nonprofits, and affordable housing projects across the country. I am heartened by the level of care and concern everyone is showing. Our industry partners are leaning in to help the communities CDFIs serve.
OFN is especially pleased to announce a new partner: Google. OFN is working with Google to launch the Grow with Google Small Business Fund, a $125 million program to support small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
The Fund will enable CDFIs to support both the short-term recovery and long-term financing needs of America’s small businesses. The Fund is funded by Google and managed by OFN. In addition, Google is making a $5 million grant to OFN to enable CDFIs to grow and build their capacity to support minority- and women-led businesses.
In these uncertain days, CDFIs are stalwarts. This crisis makes CDFIs and our work more relevant, not less. We are of and in the communities left behind by mainstream finance. We can authentically say to people who feel marginalized in the best of times: “We see you. We know your struggles. We are here to help.”
Our network of CDFIs is doing everything possible to Keep CDFIs Strong. Let’s fight together for America’s low-income, low-wealth communities. Thank you for joining us on this common mission.