WASHINGTON — Three Oklahoma tribal nations will receive almost half of the initial funding from a new small business initiative that the Biden-Harris Administration announced last week.
The Osage, Chickasaw and Citizen Potawatomi nations will receive small business funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, created by Congress to help the nation recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The White House said this is the first ever inclusion of dedicated, direct support to tribal governments and that investments like the State Small Business Credit Initiative will help to ensure that all Americans, including those in underserved tribal communities, will benefit.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our nation’s economy,” Vice President Kamala Harris said in the White House’s Monday announcement. “Far too often, entrepreneurs and small business owners with big plans and a vision for the future struggle simply because they lack the capital or financial services they need. That’s why we are making this historic investment, which will help tribal communities grow their small businesses, create jobs, and strengthen our economy.”
‘Recognizing our sovereignty’
The administration provided $73 million for the venture – with the Osage, Chickasaw and Citizen Potawatomi Nations receiving almost $30 million.
Cindy Logsden, Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation’s CEO, said the funding will help many tribal small business owners with money needed to make investments into their businesses.
“It’s recognizing the tribes as equal to state entities and recognizing our sovereignty,” she said. “It means more dollars to the state of Oklahoma. Hopefully we are making more sustainable businesses and families at the end of the day.”
The Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation will be receiving more than $8 million from the federal government, which will help them lend to more entrepreneurs, she said.
“It’s access to capital that otherwise — individuals, that Native family, that Native business — probably would not be able to (access),” Logsden said. “We do a lot more hand holding than a bank would do. We think outside of the box. If we don’t have enough collateral, ‘Could we get the [Bureau of Indian Affairs] insurance?’ Because we aren’t regulated like a bank is, we could be normal or creative in assisting Native Americans in getting access to capital.”
The Citizen Potawatomie Nation has had a program that lends to small businesses for 20 years. Logsden said they have lent around $125 million to several small businesses.
The Osage Nation, which will receive $5.2 million, is just getting a lending program started. Candy Thomas, director of self-governance and strategic planning, said the tribe is building two programs using this money to improve help for tribal small businesses.
Thomas said the tribe is developing an equity fund alongside a capital fund program which is designed to loan money to small businesses with a focus on Osage people, but any Native American is eligible.
“We can’t just say it’s for Osages. We have a [Community Development Financial Institution] that’s being set up and we can’t specify a population in that like ‘just Osages,’” Thomas said. “That’s where we are. It’s been going on for a long-time and it keeps changing when they change the guidelines and change the allocation amount.”
Thomas said being recognized with the award from the federal government is “highly satisfying.”
“Traditionally, Native Americans don’t have good credit scores. Banks would even turn them down because they’re Native American or they don’t have everything they’re looking for,” Thomas said. “We’re very excited about this and that it will work hand-in-hand with our [Community Development Financial Institution].”
In a statement, Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said the tribe will split the $16 million it is receiving into two programs: a collateral support program, designed to provide funds for tribal members who might not have enough collateral to secure a loan, and a venture capital program.
“Access to capital is vital for small business success, and the Chickasaw Nation is grateful to be partnering with the U.S. Treasury,” Anoatubby said. “Delivering these vital programs to underserved small business owners is key to fulfilling the Chickasaw Nation’s mission to enhance the overall quality of life of the Chickasaw people.”