UMEZ Loans Grameen America Capital For Harlem

Date:    Thursday, April 30, 2015

Kenneth J. Knuckles, President & CEO of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corp.(UMEZ) announced that the organization had closed on a $500,000 loan to Grameen America, Inc.

Grameen America, Inc., a non-profit microfinance organization based in New York, was founded in 2008 by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus. Its mission is to help alleviate poverty through entrepreneurship by providing loans, saving programs, credit establishment and other services to low-income individuals in the United States. Grameen provides micro-loans starting at $1,500 for six months to a year, with no collateral or credit score requirements. Borrowers must be part of a group of 4 to 5 borrowers, who are collectively responsible for the loan repayments. In order to build savings and give basic financial literacy training, borrowers are required to attend regular training sessions and to contribute a small sum towards mandatory weekly savings. All loans support small business activities such as food carts, at-home catering businesses or salon services.

The UMEZ loan will be used to expand Grameen’s lending platform In Harlem. Grameen America also has a branch in northern Manhattan supported by a UMEZ loan and grant executed in September 2010.

Mr. Knuckles remarked, “UMEZ’s relationship with Grameen has proven extremely successful in channeling capital to Upper Manhattan communities UMEZ has not been able to reach with traditional loan products. Grameen has successfully gained traction in Washington Heights and Inwood, areas where UMEZ has historically had more success in providing grants than making loans. Through Grameen, UMEZ capital has reached over 1,100 individuals and businesses. In Harlem, Grameen will similarly target the West African community and expects to achieve robust loan growth over the next five years, and gaining a foothold for future work in this community.”

Since its founding in 1996, The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone (UMEZ) has been a singular catalyst in the revitalization of Upper Manhattan. UMEZ’s investments, upwards of $220 million to date, have provided funding to numerous organizations, businesses and institutions that drive the local economy, create jobs, and add to the vibrancy of New York City. Significantly, these funds have also been leveraged to generate over $1 billion in private capital investments into Upper Manhattan. UMEZ continues to be a leader in reestablishing the area as one of New York’s most dynamic cultural districts through the creation of the Cultural Industry Investment Fund, established in 2004.