WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today convened an oversight hearing to examine how the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and the Treasury, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs deploy federal financial tools to foster community and economic development in tribal communities.
According to the Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners and Self-Employed Persons, nearly two-thirds of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian owned businesses were started using personal/family savings or other personal/family assets, and ten to fifteen percent of native business owners consistently report using credit cards to finance business startup.
“Traditional models of financing do not always work in rural communities, and this is especially true on tribal lands where land title issues as well as the difficulty in collateralizing tribal assets make investors wary of working with tribes,” said Hoeven. “Local Community banks and Community Development Financial Institutions can fill those investment needs.”
During the hearing, Hoeven discussed his legislation, S. 212, the Indian Community Economic Enhancement Act, which passed the Committee in January and does the following:
Amends three Federal laws relating to business, economic, and trade development in Indian communities.
Increases access to capital for Indian tribes and businesses.
Increases opportunities for Indian business promotion.
Creates mechanisms and tools to attract investments in Indian communities.
The Committee heard testimony from Tara Mac Lean Sweeney, Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior; Jodie Harris, Director, Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, U.S. Department of the Treasury; Henry Childs II, National Director, Minority Business Development Agency, U.S. Department of Commerce; Jacqueline Ponti-Lazaruk, Chief Innovation Officer, Rural Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Mark Thompson, Lieutenant Governor, Acoma Pueblo & Board Member, Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.