ARLINGTON, Va. – Twenty-two credit unions, and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions (NFCDCU), together received millions of dollars from the Treasury Department's Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) fund this year, and Clifford Rosenthal, NFCDCU's executive director and newly elected chairman of the CDFI coalition, said protecting credit union access to CDFI money will be a key part of his tenure as coalition chairman. Founded in 1990, the CDFI coalition supported the founding and the funding of the CDFI program consistently but informally under the Clinton Administration, Rosenthal said. But now that the Bush Administration is in place and budgets are being squeezed, Rosenthal and the coalition worry that CDFI funding may be on the chopping block. "We [the CDFI coalition] came to the conclusion the fund was large enough and important enough to require a full-time presence in the Washington area and a more formal organizational structure," Rosenthal said. The group formally incorporated earlier in 2002 and Rosenthal was elected to the chairmanship on July 23. Rosenthal indicated that there has been a big difference between the Clinton Administration's approach to the fund and that of the Bush administration, though he was careful to note that the Bush administration had not sought to eliminate funding for the program. Rosenthal characterized the Clinton White House as "very supportive" and noted, during the Clinton years, the administration requested $125 million for the fund annually. The Bush administration has requested only $68 million for the fund in each of the last two fiscal years, he said. Last year Congress upped the administration's request. The House voted to allocate $80 million to the fund while the Senate approved $100 million. Overall the Congress opted for the House's $80 million against the Senate's $100 million, Rosenthal noted, which concerns him because this year the Senate's initial allocation was only $73 million, leading Rosenthal to fear even deeper cuts, when the House arrives at its figure. These cuts could disproportionately hurt credit unions, Rosenthal said, because the majority of credit union allocations from the CDFI fund have come from the fund's so called Small and Emerging CDFI (SECA) program, from which funds will be cut more quickly than from the fund's so-called "core program." This year 14 community development credit unions from around the country received allocations from the SECA program. Jennifer Vasiloff, the CDFI Coalition's first executive director, did not know where the House would come down on the final allocation for the CDFI, but noted that the House Appropriation Committee's subcommittee on VA, HUD and Independent Agencies is scheduled to meet on the matter on September 13. "I think there are likely some scheduling conflicts which are going to mean that meeting gets rescheduled to the following week," Vasiloff said, "but I expect we will have more information when Congress comes back into session in September." Vasiloff noted that subcommittee Chairman James Walsh (R-N.Y.) has been supportive of the fund in the past and that it is reasonable to expect he will be in the future, but that it was difficult to lobby members in support of the bill when Congress is not in session. [email protected]

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