On April 20, the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee held a hearing entitled, “An Economy that Works For Everyone: Investing in Rural Communities.” Two leaders of OFN member CDFIs testified at the hearing: Bill Bynum, CEO of HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corporation, Hope Credit Union, Hope Policy Institute), and Marcia Erickson, CEO of GROW South Dakota.
Bynum highlighted the housing, health, and financial issues facing rural communities and the need to build wealth through homeownership and small business ownership. He also reiterated the importance of federal investments in financial entities that have a track record of closing financial gaps in low-income communities and the need to address discrimination in our banking system.
Erickson discussed the unique housing needs of rural and tribal areas and the importance of mission lenders for financing critical housing options. She also highlighted the need for reforms to the SBA’s microloan program and CDFI Fund grants, and how waiving the matching funds requirements for CDFI Fund grants could help more funding reach rural communities. Both CDFI leaders expressed the need for ongoing partnership with the federal government to address challenges facing rural America.
Several Members of Congress followed Bynum and Erickson’s testimony with questions:
- Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-OH) highlighted HOPE’s work to bring homeownership opportunities to families of color in the Deep South and asked Bynum how the Biden Administration could better support these efforts.
- Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), new Chair of the Senate Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, asked Bynum how to ensure the $9 billion Emergency Capital Investment Program funding for CDFIs makes it to the communities that need it most.
- Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) inquired about how the challenges in the housing market have been exacerbated by COVID-19, and how to meet the demand for housing in tribal communities.
- Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) asked Bynum what more the Treasury Department and CDFI Fund can do to support rural areas.
OFN is pleased to see Congress looking to the CDFI industry to share our expertise on increasing investment in rural communities.