WASHINGTON – Supporters of the Treasury Department's embattled Community Development Financial Institutions Fund have begun lobbying to restore some of the program's slashed funding. The fund has been among the largest supporters of community development credit unions in previous years. "What we are really aiming to do is to restore funding to $80 million, which it last was in fiscal year 2002," said Jordan Hamory, program coordinator for the CDFI Coalition, which is trying to build support for CFDI. Hamory acknowledged that the funding fight might be an uphill battle in the current legislative environment which is heavily focused on war expenses and belt-tightening, but pointed out that CDFI supporters were not pressing for a large appropriation increase. The current legislative effort is focused on a letter that Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is circulating among House members. The letter is addressed to Jim Walsh (R-N.Y.) chairman of a House appropriations subcommittee that has oversight over the fund, Hamory said, and seeks to convince Walsh and the subcommittee to fund the Treasury program to the tune of $80 million in the coming fiscal year. The letter partially cites the fund's work especially with credit unions. "Examples of CDFIs include credit unions that offer checking accounts to low-income members," Gutierrez wrote in a letter designed to convince other representatives to support an increase. "[As well as] groups that lend capital to assist in developing neighborhood child care facilities and microenterprise groups that help entrepreneurs start small businesses," he wrote. Last year, a similar effort from Gutierrez garnered 45 signatories and this year's effort had gathered nine confirmed signatures as of press time for this story. Hamory said that this was good for the first week circulating the letter and that the time period for building support would last until April 15. The nine current signatories include Representatives: Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.). Frank is the ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, Hamory noted, and she said a similar effort was underway in the Senate. Last year a letter to Senate Democrats in support of the CDFI Fund was organized by Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) and had 32 Senators sign-on. Supporters on the Republican side of the chamber circulated a similar letter last year to Senate Republicans and seven Republican senators signed-on to support the Fund. This year the Senate will circulate a joint letter, sponsored by Corzine and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), but the text had not been finalized yet, Hamory said. [email protected]

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