January 09, 2020

Hirono, Murkowski Introduce Bill to Provide New Investments for Native Communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced the bipartisan Inspiring Nationally Vibrant Economies Sustaining Tribes Act (INVEST Act), legislation to promote new investments in American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities through the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program. The INVEST Act would establish a 10 percent set-aside within the NMTC program for Native Community Development Financial Institutions (Native CDFIs) and certain other qualified entities to invest in Native communities. The bill would also support technical assistance for those Native CFDIs.

“The New Markets Tax Credit program has been an effective tool for promoting community development and economic growth across the country, but more can be done to ensure Native communities share in that success. Under this legislation, Native Hawaiian communities in our state and other Native communities across the country will benefit from new access to much-needed resources,” Senator Hirono said. “I am proud to join Senator Murkowski to introduce this legislation to support Native communities and build on the program’s success.”

“Despite the impressive record of the New Markets Tax Credit program, Native communities have not been proportionately served. This legislation will not only give Alaska Natives greater opportunity to receive support for community revitalization projects, but will help ensure they actually receive the funds they’ve been allocated,” Senator Murkowski said. “By improving the existing program, we are creating greater incentive to invest in rural communities across the state, allowing these remote areas to build and sustain strong economies.”

Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) also cosponsored the INVEST Act.

In Hawaii, the NMTC program has provided tens of millions of dollars to support the construction and development of health centers, clean energy projects, and other community initiatives. Recently enacted spending legislation reauthorized the NMTC program at $5 billion in 2020. 

The bill has been endorsed by the Native CDFI Network, the Native American Finance Officers Association, and the Alaska Federation of Natives.

Senator Hirono has championed federal programs that support Native communities and businesses. In December, the President signed into law bipartisan provisions Senator Hirono introduced with Senator Sullivan to expand Department of Defense federal contracting opportunities for Native Hawaiian Organizations and their businesses as part of Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020) National Defense Authorization Act.

Last year, she also signed a letter with 36 of her colleagues calling for strong funding in FY 2020 for the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund), which administers the NMTC program. Despite the President’s repeated calls to eliminate the CDFI Fund, the program received $262 million for FY2020 – a slight increase from what it received the previous year. The letter also requested funding for the Native American CDFI Assistance Program (NACAP), which received $16 million for FY2020 – consistent with what it received in FY2019.

In July, Senator Hirono introduced the Native American Business Outreach Act (S. 2191), which would permanently authorize the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) business outreach and counseling programs for those businesses, providing more stability for Native businesses that seek assistance from SBA. Last month, a companion bill was introduced in the House.