HELENA, Mont. – The U.S. Treasury Department's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund has recognized a subsidiary of the Montana Credit Union Network as an official CDFI Intermediary Institution. There are only 13 CDFI Intermediary Institutions in the country and Montana's is the only credit union league to have achieved this designation. CDFI Intermediary Institutions both apply for grants and loans from the CDFI Fund on behalf of CDFIs that it represents and take responsibility for helping to administer those funds. In the Montana case, the institution, Montana Credit Unions for Community Development, a subsidiary of the Network, handles much of the reporting paperwork associated with the funding, according to Tracie Karls, president of both the Network and the MCUCD. Currently MCUCD represents six Montana credit union CDFIs, almost all are very small, Karls reported. MCUCD has applied for $500,000 from the Fund in this fiscal cycle, an amount which Karls acknowledged is large from both Montana's perspective and the Fund's. Should the money be awarded, Karls said it would fund first-time mortgage programs and various financial education and literacy efforts among Montana's underserved. Since 1999, the MCUCD reported that Montana-based CDFIs have brought $1.7 million into the state from the Fund. Karls acknowledged that MCUCD's attainment of CDFI status represented a coup on a couple of fronts, both for being the only credit union league, so far, to have taken up this approach and to have attained the status as quickly as it did. Karls reported that it was roughly seven weeks between when MCUCD applied for recognition as a CDFI and when the Fund granted that status, an almost unprecedented short period of time. "We worked very, very hard to make this happen," Karls said, praising her staff for all their hard work, and disavowing any overt political effort to make the recognition come more quickly. "Certainly we have let our congressional delegation know about what we were doing," Karls said, "but we didn't ask that a letter be sent on our behalf or anything like that." Karls said the MCUCD refrained from asking for explicit political support because the Network has a policy against direct lobbying of its congressional delegation. Twelve of the nation's 678 recognized CDFIs are in Montana, Karls said. Currently, MCUCD will serve as an Intermediary Institution for only those CDFIs that are credit unions, but Karls did not rule out cooperating with other types of CDFI institutions in the future where there might be mutually beneficial goals. -


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