On October 3-4, 2022, Native communities and Native CDFIs were represented at two high-profile federal events in Washington, D.C.: a Working Session of the Biden Administration’s Economic Opportunity Coalition and the U.S. Department of Treasury’s annual Freedman’s Bank Forum.

On Monday, October 3, NCN Interim CEO and Board Chair Pete Upton participated in a Working Session of the Biden Administration’s Economic Opportunity Coalition (EOC) hosted by the White House, which consists of more than 20 private-sector organizations, including technology companies, philanthropies, and some of the largest consumer banks and investment firms. Together, these private-sector leaders have committed tens of billions of dollars to promote and then provide capital to community lenders to support entrepreneurship and minority-owned businesses, to expand access to financial services, and to create and protect affordable housing. As part of this overall investment, the EOC has committed more than $1 billion to community banks serving minority and rural communities.

Upton participated in a session titled “CDFIs and MDIs – Deposits and Center of Excellence,” which focused on some exciting emerging opportunities and commitments to support MDIs and CDFIs. In particular, the session highlighted two EOC initiatives: $500+ million in MDI deposits from EOC corporations and the launch of a Center of Excellence for MDIs and CDFIs, which will offer technology, data, and hands-on support to MDIs and CDFIs. Other attendees included former CDFI Fund Director Donna Gambrell, who now serves as CEO of Appalachian Community Capital, and current CDFI Fund Director Jodi Harris.

Left to right: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivers keynote remarks at the Freedman’s Bank Forum; NCN Interim CEO Pete Upton; Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen shares at the Forum; Upton with former CDFI Fund Director Donna Gambrell; Upton with USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux

On October 4, Upton attended the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s annual Freedman’s Bank Forum, an annual Forum launched in 2015, by then Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, to showcase strategies to address racial economic disparities. The Forum brought together about 40 national leaders from the public, private, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors to advance solutions designed to unleash the economic potential of Black, Latino, AANHPI, and Native communities. The Forum’s plenary session keynote speaker was none other than U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who in her remarks referenced the economic opportunity challenges facing Native people, particularly those living in rural areas, who “often lack access to traditional financial services of any kind.” Other speakers included Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge, corporate and philanthropic CEOs, and leading advocates and practitioners. In her remarks, Yellen emphasized that the Biden Administration is “trying to invest in communities that have often been ignored or overlooked. Our economic blueprint supports our strong belief that tapping the potential of all communities is not just the morally right thing to do, it’s a promising strategy for inclusive economic growth as well.” Fudge, meanwhile, shared that HUD will be launching an initiative to solicit feedback about the barriers to originating small-balance mortgages – including in rural areas – and develop solutions to address those barriers.

Following the plenary session, Upton participated as a panelist in the breakout session “Asset Building in Underinvested Communities,” which was moderated by HUD Deputy Secretary Adrianne Todman. The objective of the roundtable conversation was to discuss key Biden-Harris Administration initiatives at HUD to advance asset building among underinvested communities and ways to scale these initiatives. Specific topics focused on the role the private and civic sectors can play to scale the impact of recent HUD policies around small-dollar mortgages, special-purpose credit programs, community development programs, and HUD-assisted resident asset building.

While in Washington, D.C., Upton also met with USDA Farm Service Agency Administrator Zach Ducheneaux, who is an ardent supporter of Native CDFIs and the Native CDFI Network.

Elevating Native voices in these national dialogues is just one step toward strengthening the Native community development financial institution (CDFI) industry and achieving economic equity for Native communities and is at the heart of NCN’s mission.