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WASHINGTON – For the second year in a row the Bush administration has requested almost nothing for the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. Although this administration has never sought full funding for the CDFI effort, Jennifer Vasiloff, executive director of the CDFI Coalition, an organization of CDFI institutions which support the fund, said that it has only been in the last two years that the administration has attempted to kill the program and roll its appropriation into a block grant program administered by Commerce Department. The administration zeroed out any appropriation for the CDFI grant program, leaving only $4.3 million for the New Markets Tax Credit program and $3.5 million to manage the grants which have already been made. Vasiloff said that the CDFI Coalition would gear up to challenge these cuts, as well as ask for additional funding. “We are going to ask for $80 million this year,” she said. “We know it will be difficult but we believe that Congress has shown no appetite for the organizational and funding changes the administration has proposed.” Ironically, the CDFI fund was not mentioned on a Web site, ExpectMore.gov, the administration had prepared to track government programs that are deemed to be underperforming. But the New Markets Tax Credits program was listed there as performing adequately. Cliff Rosenthal, executive director of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions and past chairman of the CDFI Coalition, estimated that the Congress would show even less support for killing the CDFI Fund than it had last year. “I just don’t think there is going to be enough time, energy or will to fight in this Congress,” Rosenthal said. “CDFI has supporters on both sides of the aisle and think there are going to be bigger issues to confront in an election year,” he said. But Vasiloff acknowledged that there will be a hard road ahead for the fund. “It is another tight year and the fund will be up against other worthy government programs,” she said. “But we believe we have an established record of success that we can use to make our case for why the fund should still receive appropriations.” Rosenthal added that even if the fund survives another budget fight, which he believes it will, the fight still affects it because it tends to discourage people from applying to work there. “We know that the fund is chronically understaffed, even with the core of tremendously dedicated people who have helped us throughout the years,” Rosenthal said, “and the regular attempts to eliminate the fund makes it difficult to attract new staff.” [email protected]

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