Bank of America directed more than $13 million to Native American communities disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
As part of its efforts to advance economic opportunity and racial equity, BofA made a $10 million investment in Denver-based Native American Bank — the only national American Indian-owned community development bank in the country — in support of efforts to provide capital for small businesses, affordable housing, consumer lending, and community facilities such as schools and healthcare clinics.
The financial services giant also awarded grants totaling $3.1 million to nonprofits working in Native American communities and to meet needs in the areas of health, hunger, and employment. Nearly half the grants went to local nonprofits in states with some of the highest proportion of Native Americans, including Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Recipients include the American Indian College Fund, Denver Indian Health and Family Services, First Nations Development Corporation, First Nations Oweesta Corporation, Mesa Community College, the National American Indian Housing Council, National Congress of American Indians, and United National Indian Tribal Youth.
According to NCAI, Native Americans have lower life expectancy, lower educational attainment levels, and higher unemployment rates than non-Natives and are among the poorest people in the United States, while the prolonged public health emergency has exacerbated the need in Native American communities for critical services and support. The Navajo Nation, for instance, has seen more COVID-19 cases per capita than nearly any other group in the country, with the infection rate among the Navajo people during the worst days of the pandemic more than eight times that of New Mexicans in general.
"The economic needs in tribal communities continue to be a challenge that we, as a society, need to address," said Andrew Plepler, head of environmental, social, and governance at Bank of America. "These challenges have been further exacerbated by the coronavirus. There is an urgent need to invest in tribal and Native-owned small businesses, health care, and jobs development to mitigate some of the enormous economic and health risks these communities currently face."
(Photo credit: Native American Bank)