Another person who recognizes this is CACLV's Alan Jennings. I've told you before about his small business lending arm, the Rising Tide Community Loan Fund. Whether it's the Birdlady of Easton or Bath's Daily Grind, the Lehigh Valley's only federally-certified microlender has been there with 76 microloans for $1,447,000 (as of April), creating or helping save 142 jobs in the process. According to yesterday's Morning Call, the fund has just been replenished with a $353,514 Treasury Department grant. Private sources also contribute to this loan pool.
In addition to microlending, Jennings was in Los Angeles last week, asking federal regulatory agencies to improve Community Reinvestment Rules to make credit more accessible to our small businesses, especially in low and moderate income communities.
Alan L Jennings, Executive Director of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, is a long time advocate for access to credit for low-income families and their neighborhoods. His testimony in Los Angeles will address issues like collection and disclosure of small business lending data by race and census tract, opportunities for the public to be better informed about and comment on bank plans to merge or close branches, stronger rules related to the even distribution of branches (where most small business lending is done) throughout communities, not just in upper-income census tracts, and better consistency in rule interpretation among and within the regulatory agencies.
Jennings told the suits that in the "most dysfunctional credit market in decades," regulators themselves have contributed to the credit crunch by subscribing to the notion that lending in lower-income communities is too risky when the reality is that community development lending "is safe and sound."
He also argues for more transparency in Community Reinvestment Rules:
"Public comment periods are not publicized (in our region the only branch in one of our moderate-income boroughs closed and nobody knew until the bank informed their customers, long after the regulator approved; the low-income elderly folks who don’t drive never knew what hit them.) Large bank mergers occur, affecting hundreds of communities and hundreds of thousands of people, and no public hearings are held. Not only should hearings be held, but large mergers should only occur when the surviving bank offers a community reinvestment plan that includes public input."
Noting that bank branches "remain the most visible icon of banking, for everything from deposits to mortgages to small business lending," Jennings is shocked that many branches can have "satisfactory CRA ratings despite having not a single branch in a low- or even moderate-income census tract; in some cases, they don’t have a branch in an entire city but still get away with it."