Senators Smith, Rounds Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Spur Economic Development in Underserved Communities

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to jumpstart economic development in economically distressed areas and address disparities in access to capital for underserved communities.

The bill would strengthen and expand Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), which play a critical role in bringing capital and financial services to a wide range of underserved communities – from urban areas to small towns and rural communities to Tribal lands.

“Unequal access to capital and financial services is a key driver of economic disparity in rural areas, communities of color, and Indigenous communities,” said Sen. Smith. “This legislation will jumpstart economic development in these communities by expanding and enhancing a program with a track record of effective capital investment and community development.”

Their legislation—the CDFI Bond Guarantee Program Improvement Act, named for Community Development Financial Institutions–will extend authorization of the CDFI Bond Guarantee Program, while making it more reliable and accessible to smaller CDFIs. This legislation will expand and improve a successful program that operates without a taxpayer subsidy and allows CDFIs to access long-term, stable funding.

The CDFI Bond Guarantee Program was enacted in 2010 to provide long-term, low-cost capital to CDFIs, which use the funding for economic development activities in underserved communities.  The program’s authorization lapsed in 2014, but it has been extended on a year-by-year basis in annual appropriations bills.  Under current program rules, borrowers must have a loan size of at least $100 million – which means that the program can only be used for relatively large projects.

The CDFI Bond Guarantee Program Improvement Act will authorize the program for four years, to provide certainty to borrowers and lenders. It will also reduce the minimum loan size to $25 million and remove the annual limit on guarantees, to allow smaller CDFI to utilize the program and to support more community development projects. The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Steve Daines (R-MT).