Since 1997, UMEZ has offered microloans through partners that specialize in microcredit to individuals underserved by mainstream banking institutions. In the United States, microcredit encompasses a diverse range of lending. Some microcredit organizations specifically seek to empower low-income individuals to become entrepreneurs by providing affordable business capital. Other microcredit organizations focus on strengthening and growing small businesses and do not target specific income groups. The Small Business Administration considers loans up to $50,000 as microloans and they start as low as $500.
Grameen America, Inc., a nonprofit 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, savings programs, credit establishment, and other services to low-income individuals in the United States. All loans support small business activities including food carts, at-home catering businesses, or salon services.
Grameen America has a branch in northern Manhattan, which disbursed its first loan in March 2009. The branch has grown to nearly 400 borrowers with a growth strategy to increase to over 4,000 borrowers.
In FY 2010-2011 UMEZ provided a $500,000 loan and a $125,000 grant to Grameen America; and in FY 2011-2012 UMEZ approved a $3.0 million loan and a $625,000 multi-year restricted grant for operations to expand the program beyond Washington Heights to the entire UMEZ footprint.
For more information, visit http://grameenamerica.org/