Equitable Lending Leaders: Fostering Inclusive Entrepreneurial Lending in Indigenous Communities
Equity is the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) number one investment priority. While all EDA grant applications are evaluated with an equity lens, the bureau has also launched several dedicated programs to advance best practices in equitable economic development and deliver focused support to underrepresented populations, including America’s indigenous and tribal communities.
With an aggregate capital base of more than $1 billion, the Revolving Loan Funds (RLF) capitalized by EDA provide a vital source of gap financing to small businesses that face barriers to accessing capital through a traditional lender.
Today, EDA’s Research and National Technical Assistance (RNTA) program announced an $824,956 grant to Recast City and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR). This award will advance an ambitious project focused on supporting Indigenous-led and Indigenous-serving RLF operators interested in adopting social impact criteria in their lending activities. It underscores EDA’s recognition of the need for improved access to the availability of RLF resources by entrepreneurs and innovators across America’s Indigenous communities.
The program — Equitable Lending Leaders: Fostering Inclusive Entrepreneurial Lending in Indigenous Communities — will develop and manage a first-of-its-kind cohort training program for up to  Indigenous-led and Indigenous-serving RLFs. They will expand their abilities to implement internal policies and procedures, such as improved underwriting criteria and targeted program marketing, that will enhance their ability to serve Indigenous enterprises. The initiative will be stewarded with assistance from an Indigenous community advisory group to review program content, partner on outreach, and support program sustainability.
“The President has called on federal agencies to advance equity by identifying and removing barriers to success which historically underserved communities face,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development. “This initiative is one of several programs that demonstrate EDA’s commitment to the realization of the vision of the Biden-Harris Administration in Indigenous Americans and beyond.”
“We are proud to partner with EDA and ILSR on this important initiative that will help RLF operators build trust with Indigenous entrepreneurs and stimulate the development of entrepreneurial ecosystems,” explained Ilana Preuss, Founder and CEO of Recast City.
“The Equitable Lending Leaders project seeks to improve the capacity of EDA-capitalized Revolving Loan Fund operators to deploy much-needed capital to Indigenous-owned small businesses immediately and over the long term,” said Kennedy Smith, Senior Researcher of ILSR. “This project will support EDA’s mission by building a stronger and more responsive economic development infrastructure in Indigenous communities.”
Additional information on Equitable Lending Leaders: Fostering Inclusive Entrepreneurial Lending in Indigenous Communities, including opportunities for program participation and cohort enrollment, will be available in early 2024. Receive updates on this, and other Indigenous-facing EDA programs, by subscribing to the Indigenous Intel newsletter.