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Aug. 12, 2021

CDFIs Report Positive Financial State, Influx of Clients, but Continued Staff, Capital Constraints

Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) indicated a widespread influx of new customers, strong funding streams throughout the pandemic and generally positive current financial states, according to the results of the Federal Reserve 2021 CDFI Survey, fielded March 22 through May 14.

Nearly all CDFIs that provided client information indicated they took on new clients since March 2020. Respondents noted trends in new clients that were directly tied to COVID-19 pandemic funding, including those seeking access to pandemic financial assistance programs, and those seeking technical assistance for loan and grant applications.

“Last year, our special COVID-19 CDFI Survey revealed that CDFIs were concerned about their ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic financially,” said Christy Cleare, community affairs officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. “This year’s survey indicates that respondents took on more clients during these unprecedented times and funding streams were generally responsive to CDFIs’ needs.”

When asked to characterize their current financial state, four out of five respondent CDFIs described it as moderately strong or very strong, with nearly half indicating very strong. Still, more than three-quarters of CDFIs indicated they were unable to provide all the products or services they would like to offer their clients. The majority of these CDFIs cited staffing and capital constraints as factors preventing them from doing so on a sustained basis. CDFIs also reported on the challenges facing their clients, with about 70 percent of respondents citing income or revenue loss as the most significant challenge.

CDFIs are financial institutions with a mission to serve low- and moderate-income (LMI) individuals and communities. The 2021 CDFI Survey effort is a partnership of the Federal Reserve, the CDFI Fund, Opportunity Finance Network, the Alliance of African American CDFI CEOs, CDFI Coalition, the Native CDFI Network, the Community Development Bankers Association, Inclusiv, First Nations Oweesta Corporation, NeighborWorks America, the New York State CDFI Coalition and the Asociación de Ejecutivos de Cooperativas de Ahorro y Crédito de Puerto Rico.

Detailed findings can be found in 2021 CDFI Survey Key Findings, located at FedCommunities.org, the Federal Reserve System’s gateway to community development insights. See, for example, a series on CDFIs helping minority small business owners during the first year of the pandemic, “Struggle for Access: Small Lenders, Small Businesses, and the Paycheck Protection Program.” You can also sign up to receive email notifications when new stories and research about CDFIs and other topics are posted.


As part of our nation’s central bank, the Richmond Fed is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks working together with the Board of Governors to support a healthy economy and deliver on our mission to foster economic stability and strength. We connect with community and business leaders across the Fifth Federal Reserve District — including the Carolinas, District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and most of West Virginia — to monitor economic conditions, address issues facing our communities, and share this information with monetary and financial policymakers. We also work with banks to ensure they are operating safely and soundly, supply financial institutions with currency that’s fit for distribution, and provide a safe and efficient way to transfer funds through our nation’s payments system.

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