About Uplift America

The Uplift America Fund is a new kind of partnership that leverages federal resources, bank financing and private grants to target much-needed capital to persistently low-wealth areas. It makes low-interest U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans and private grant support available to community lenders, particularly community development financial institutions (CDFIs), that fund in economically distressed areas of Appalachia, the Texas-Mexico border, the rural South and Native American reservations. These funds can be used for community facilities projects like health clinics, schools, libraries, food banks, municipal buildings and child care centers. Uplift provides an unprecedented opportunity for experienced community lenders to deploy large amounts of capital to areas of greatest need while building their own capacity and scale of operations so they can remain enduring resources for rural communities. This model leverages existing infrastructure and expertise to tailor place-based solutions, and we hope it serves as a template for other federal partners to structure investment in underserved areas.

 

How It Works

The USDA recently announced updates to its Community Facilities Loan Program “that allow the Agency to make direct loans to eligible lending institutions (referred to as ‘re-lenders’) who then will re-loan the funds to eligible applicants for eligible community facility projects.” Through the Community Facilities Relending Program, USDA can provide up to $500 million in long-term, very low-cost financing for CDFIs to facilitate much-needed infrastructure projects in communities that have suffered for decades from persistent poverty and underinvestment.

Uplift provides additional financial ingredients that allow community lenders to access these funds and increase the chance they will make a difference. Private grants offer critical capacity building support like staffing, technical assistance or community planning, and net-asset assistance to strengthen balance sheets and allow borrowing of these resources. Financial guarantees from banks make community lenders more attractive to USDA.

Click here to learn more about investment opportunities.

 

Why Uplift?

Challenging market conditions and pressures for short-term profits sometimes make rural communities difficult investment opportunities. Structural barriers such as racism, political dysfunction and inadequate service delivery systems compound these problems, resulting in high poverty and unemployment. Challenging economic circumstances, limited time and staff capacity, and rigorous eligibility requirements conspire to impede the flow of USDA resources to the areas that need them most. Despite these issues, rural communities have deep and meaningful assets, including millions of people with local knowledge, passion and skills. Smart and adequate investment can develop these assets and ignite the potential in economically distressed places. Uplift promises to improve employment, education, health and housing outcomes for families in underserved places by catalyzing substantial, targeted investment in community infrastructure.

 

Unlocking Investment in Rural America

USDA and the Corporation for Enterprise Development produced this video highlighting the need for a collaboration like Uplift America and the unique role of CDFIs in improving rural communities.