Reading to children at Rayitos de Sol, a child care business in Milbridge, Maine that opened in 2021 with support from CEI. Contributed photo via CEI

The Genesis Fund and Coastal Enterprises Inc. were each awarded a $1,826,265 grant from U.S. Department of the Treasury’s CDFI Rapid Response Program.  This new capital was awarded to assist with Maine’s recovery from COVID-19.

The Treasury Department awarded $1.25 billion in COVID-19 relief funds to 863 community development financial institutions nationwide, including seven in Maine. These awards will provide capital for institutions to respond to economic challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in underserved communities.

The Genesis Fund makes loans to develop affordable housing and other community facilities like shelters, food pantries and childcare centers.

“For almost 30 years, the Genesis Fund has been committed to providing patient, creative and risk-tolerant financing to affordable housing and community facility projects in need of access to non-traditional sources of capital,” Genesis Fund Executive Director Liza Fleming-Ives said. “Our work has supported vital community development projects to stabilize, rebuild, and strengthen the infrastructure that makes it possible for families and communities to thrive.

“During the pandemic, we leaned into the crisis to provide flexibility and support to our long-standing nonprofit partners. This new award will allow us to address the critical need to increase and preserve affordable housing, quality child care and access to food assistance that will be essential to helping our communities recover from the pandemic. ”

CEI is one of the nation’s leading rural community development financial institutions and, since 1977, has provided $1.46 billion in financing to 3,038 businesses and projects in Maine and rural regions throughout the country.

“Diverse small business owners, entrepreneurs, and leaders of community facilities like child care centers need to be part of the team rebuilding an equitable economy in the months and years ahead,” said Betsy Biemann, CEI’s CEO. “In order to bring back businesses that have fallen on hard times, you don’t just rebuild what you’ve lost. You build what you hope to have. These funds will strengthen our ability to help them create jobs, environmentally sustainable businesses and prosperity that everyone can share in.”

COVID-19 put a spotlight on racial, gender and wealth inequality, access to good jobs with livable wages, working capital, quality child care, healthcare and reliable internet, according to CEI. The funds can be used for financial products and services, business development services, operational capacity, and capital and loan-loss reserves, enabling CDFIs to help businesses, families and communities work together towards a real recovery that addresses significant stress points in society.

“CEI is honored to be among a national network of community lenders across the country recognized as part of the solution to ending economic inequity,” said Keith Bisson, CEI’s President. “The disruption and uncertainty caused by the global pandemic continue to affect pricing, supply and employment, especially in key sectors of the economy, like child care. As we work closely with business owners to help them pivot or start a new venture, we also aim to deepen our mission for long-term impact across industries and regions, positioning them for the future.”

In announcing the awards, Secretary Janet Yellen said: “In serving places that the financial sector historically hasn’t served well, CDFIs lift our whole economy up. We know that for every dollar injected into a CDFI, it catalyzes eight more dollars in private-sector investment, meaning that today’s announcement might lead to an additional $10 billion in investments.”

Other Maine recipients included Community Credit Union, Eastern Maine Development Corporation, MaineStream Finance and Northern Maine Development Corporation. In total, Maine will receive $10.6 million.

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