Begaye approves $20 million for economic development on Nation

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — On March 27, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye approved legislation appropriating $20 million dollars to the Sihasin Fund Navajo Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Economic Development Expenditure Plan to further economic development.

The vision of Navajo CDFI is to develop a financial infrastructure and a sustainable capital based economy on the Navajo Nation to further economic development. The project is designed to be a financial catalyst that will support and strengthen the private sector in creating a private business economy.

Begaye said the he and Vice President Jonathan Nez both served on the council and advocated for the Navajo CDFI as a tool that would benefit the Nation.

“Getting it off the ground will make a difference in helping entrepreneurs start businesses on the Nation,” Begaye said.

Nez said the concept of the Navajo CDFI was in response to the unknowns of how the Department of Treasury would assist tribal communities.

“It has been worked on for many years now,” Nez said. “We are finally seeing [the] council support of Navajo CDFI by putting dollars toward it.”

Nez and Begaye say establishing the Navajo CDFI will build capacity for tribal development through a range of financial products and services, not limited to loans, loan guarantees and other financial services. They say it will provide a source of funding for qualified Navajo-owned businesses and industries, Navajo governmental entities and private non-profit organizations established to foster economic development on the Nation.

The Navajo CDFI, as a U.S. Treasury certified CDE, will also be eligible to receive New Market Tax Credits from the Federal CDFI Fund. The New Market Tax Credit program provides incentives for community development through the use of tax credits that attract private investment to distressed communities.

“To put $20 million dollars into this program is significant,” Begaye said. “We will use the Navajo CDFI wisely to ensure that every entrepreneur that applies is assessed and has someone to walk them through the process of establishing their business. The signing of this bill is a win for the entrepreneurs that have been waiting for an opportunity.”

Begaye thanked the Navajo Nation Council for their directive in having Navajo Nation Speaker LoRenzo Bates move the legislation to the Office of the President and Vice President (OPVP) for signature.

“We appreciate their acknowledgment of the voice of the Navajo people in making sure that the president has a say in every appropriation made by council,” Begaye said. “To bypass the voice of the people is simply wrong.  We thank the council for recognizing this and bringing this legislation to OPVP for signature.”

Nez said the Navajo CDFI will help Navajo business owners and entrepreneurs establish more economic development opportunities for the Nation.

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