Community lenders’ network commits to lend $1 billion in support of ‘My Brother’s Keeper’

A network of community lenders is committing to lend $1 billion in support of President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative that aims to boost the life chances of young African and Hispanic men.

The Opportunity Finance Network, which represents more than 225 community development financial institutions, will pledge Thursday it will expand financing for organizations and initiatives working to help young minority men.

Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) are private lenders set up to help organizations and companies operating in low-income and disadvantaged communities, often offering loans and other financial services at affordable rates.

Obama launched the initiative to help young minority men last week, saying this group of Americans are disadvantaged in today’s economy and deserve the nation’s attention.

Obama’s solicited $200 million in financial commitments from foundations and companies to introduce programs aimed at keeping young men of color in the classroom and out of the criminal justice system.

“Broadening the horizons for our young men and giving them the tools they need to succeed will require a sustained effort from all of us,” Obama said at a White House event.

Mark Pinsky, chief executive of the Opportunity Finance Network, said his group was inspired by Obama’s commitment and decided to make their own. The network is in the process of contacting all of its affiliated CDFIs to obtain financial pledges, which he estimated would reach $1 billion.

He said $300 million of that financing would go directly to benefit young black and Hispanic men, while the remaining money would go to aid young people of color.

“’My Brother’s Keeper’ just inspired us to say what can we do to try to carry forward the momentum of this idea,” Pinsky said. “From our perspective it’s important to just say we’re going to identify this challenge and do what we can to meet it.”

Pinsky said it is too early to identify which projects precisely might get financing as a result of the new commitment, but he added it could be anything from after-school programs to companies that provide jobs for young men.

Zachary A. Goldfarb is policy editor at The Washington Post.

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