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Power Station

Nov 4, 2019

Since 1991, Latino Economic Development Center, a DC based nonprofit, has worked side by side with Latino families to make their American Dreams possible. These families, both citizens and undocumented immigrants, have aspirations of safe and affordable rental housing, home ownership and the launching and expansion of small businesses. But they are under-resourced in the federal budget and underserved by banks that view them as too risky to lend to and invest in. This is why LEDC became a Community Development Financial Institution, a lender certified by the US Department of Treasury, to make the investments that others will not. As executive director Marla Bilonick explains, an ethos of service, expertise in asset building and commitment to progressive policy advocacy has enabled LEDC to thrive and expand in a very divisive political climate. LEDC has opened new offices in Baltimore, Wheaton, Maryland, Arlington, Virginia and recently, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. A local organization is now a national change maker.

Interestingly, LEDC’s growth is not all about the ability to deploy capital effectively, LEDC builds relationships with community stakeholders, from city council members to tenants and small business owners. These relationships make it possible for LEDC to be included in the shaping of public policies that impact Latino families. LEDC exemplifies a healthy tension between being a trusted advisor to municipalities and a strong voice for the communities they serve. Their model of service, advocacy and organizing is highly effective and has led to rapid growth. And its expansion of programs and localities is taxing LEDC’s lean administrative infrastructure. Marla points out that more unrestricted funding would help to strengthen those functions, a small philanthropic tweak that could yield meaningful organizational and community benefits.