USDA and Uplift America Initiative
Transforming Rural Communities through Collaboration
Equitable access to community facilities creates stronger, healthier cities and towns. Community facilities are the places where we gather to learn and grow, rest and heal, or govern our communities and support our neighbors. Community facilities projects aim to improve quality of life in neighborhoods and provide the opportunity to shape South Carolina communities for the better, sometimes with an impact spanning generations. In addition to providing loans to finance community facilities through its revolving loan fund, SCCLF is a relender for the USDA Community Facilities Relending Program. This means additional financing options are available for organizations in low-income, rural communities to finance essential community infrastructure like schools, healthcare facilities, government buildings, equipment, and more.
SCCLF’s participation in the USDA Community Facilities Relending Program was made possible thanks to an innovative partnership between USDA and The Uplift America Initiative. Uplift America was designed to support participation in the Community Facilities Relending Program by increasing the capacity of SCCLF and other community development organizations to manage and deploy the community facility capital. The support was two-fold. First, private financial institutions, primarily Bank of America, provided guarantees for the first five years of the loans which removed the extra step for CDFIs to guarantee funding, and made community lenders more attractive to USDA. Second, re-lenders were eligible to apply for net-asset and capacity building grants from a $22 million fund pooled by several philanthropic foundations including Bank of America, Ford, JP Morgan Chase, and managed by Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation. The private grants offered critical capacity building support for functions like staffing and technical assistance as well as net-asset assistance to strengthen balance sheets, enabling organizations to borrow the federal resources.
The Uplift America Initiative and USDA have together provided over $400 million in community facilities program funds to 26 local lenders. SCCLF was awarded $10 million to finance community facilities in South Carolina’s rural census tracts through the USDA’s Community Facilities Relending Program. SCCLF also received a $1.3 million Uplift America grant and a $2.1 million program related investment from Bank of America as a guarantee of the loan. The funding will allow SCCLF to significantly boost lending in rural counties, many of which experience poverty levels of 20 to 30 percent.
“The collaboration formed between the USDA, banks, foundations, and community development organizations through the Uplift America Initiative and Community Facilities Relending Program was unprecedented, and I hope we will see more programs following this model,” said SCCLF’s Chief Executive Officer Michelle Mapp. “It is because of this unique partnership, and the combination of federal, private, and philanthropic funding we received, that we will be able to provide the long-term capital needed to increase access to essential services and improve quality of life in low-income, rural communities across the state.”