Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Nonprofits are key to improved N.Y. economy

NEW YORK (6/1/09)--In the face of tightening credit and budget cuts, community development financial institutions (CDFIs) continue to lend and provide financial services to their communities--creating jobs, building affordable housing units, and supporting small businesses in urban and rural areas across New York State.

This was the message heard by more than 50 community lending and development organizations at the annual New York Coalition of CDFIs Statewide Conference, May 7 in Albany, N.Y. The conference was organized by the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.

More than 100 individuals attended to hear about the financial "state of the state" and to discuss the economic downturn's impact on low- and moderate-income communities. Attendees heard from speakers of state agencies, and experts in the fields of microfinance, homeownership and foreclosure prevention.

New York Gov. David Paterson sent a letter confirming the important role CDFIs play. It said: "New York relies upon diversity within its financial services industries. Community-based institutions have far-reaching effects on our overall economic growth and are recognized for the services they provide to New Yorkers of all income levels. CDFIs in New York continue to lead with vision and fresh ideas that help strengthen local and national economic structures."

Jeffrey Metzler, vice president of Empire State Development Corporation (ESD), the state agency responsible for supporting New York's CDFIs, discussed the expansion of funding for ESD's economic development programs aimed at small businesses, including an additional $2.5 million, or a 170% increase, for the CDFI grant program aimed at small businesses.

While the increase in lending capital for small businesses is welcome, the coalition has sought more substantial support for the full range of CDFIs' activities. The coalition reached a major milestone in 2007 when the New York State CDFI Fund was signed into law. However, not a single state dollar has been directed toward the new fund, the federation said.

"One of the coalition's major goals in 2010 is to ensure that there is a direct allocation for the New York State CDFI Fund in the state budget," said Federation President/CEO Cliff Rosenthal. "CDFIs are experts at leveraging public monies with private funds, and our research has shown that just a $15 million investment from the state would create as much as $150 million in direct investments in our communities. Our hope is that with adequate support, the New York State CDFI Fund will bring a renewed emphasis for economic development of individuals and small businesses, complementing ESD's traditional large-scale economic development projects."

Carol Wayman, legislative director of the Corporation for Enterprise Development in Washington D.C., explained that entrepreneurship and microenterprise are being embraced by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders. CDFIs are recognized as critical to the nation's economic growth and as an integral part of the solution to the country's economic woes, she said.

Also, staff of the U.S. Treasury's CDFI fund announced that President Obama's fiscal year (FY) 2010 budget requests $243.6 million for the CDFI Fund--more than doubles the $107 million appropriated for FY 2009.

Conference organizers said they hope Gov. Paterson will see the need for more funding in coming years.

"Greater support from the state will help position New York CDFIs to access increased federal support, and it is essential that New York State CDFIs be prepared to tap into this important source of funds," said Melanie Stern, federation assistant director of Community Development Investments and a coordinator of the CDFI Coalition. "CDFI investment will help jump-start local economies and go a long way toward helping struggling New Yorkers through the economic recession."

courtesy of cuna.org

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