New Address: Two Embarcadero Center, 8th floor, San Francisco, CA 94111     

Ms. CAMEO Goes To Washington

I just returned from several days in Washington DC, promoting the need for investment in Micro-Enterprise Development, and by, extension in the infrastructure of nonprofit training, technical assistance and financing programs represented by our CAMEO members. Like so many of you, I share your righteous disbelief at the fact that the banks receiving so many billions of dollars of our tax money are not lending to the small and micro businesses that are the economic lifeblood of our communities. At the same time, CAMEO’s 30 Micro lenders are stepping up and providing financing to meet the increased demand. And, I am happy to report that Merrill Lynch, at CAMEO’s request, is negotiating with two members in Southern CA regions to replenish their supply of capital.

I wanted to share with you my impressions and what CAMEO will continue to do in the coming weeks to make our case.

Small Business: from discussions with the Congressional Minority Caucus leaders – Barbara Lee (Oakland), Mike Honda (Santa Clara) and Joe Baca (Claremont) and all Californians! – small business will most likely be on the front burner for the next round of bailout and economic stimulus funding. CAMEO advocated with these legislators as well as with staff for the Senate Small Business Committee, for full funding for the SBA, (at least $4 billion) including the PRIME program-at pre- 2000 levels- and Women’s Business Centers. The Chair of the Senate Small Business Committee will be Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA) and the incoming chair of the Congressional Committee on Small Business will be Nydia Velasquez (PR??) who is also the incoming Chair of the Hispanic Caucus. CAMEO will continue to connect with these leaders to promote the effectiveness of our members in meeting the needs of Main Street businesses who are not being served by banks receiving the billions of Bailout funds.

Note that the SBA Micro Loan Fund was recently increased by $1 million and the TA funding for this program increased by $4 million.

Bailout and Economic Stimulus Funding: From my meeting with Nancy Pelosi’s Chief of Staff, Terri McCullough, and Jaime Lizarraga, her Senior Advisor for financial policy, there appears to be some interest from the Treasury Dept. in spending a small amount of funding on innovative approaches, including Micro-Enterprise.

CAMEO has submitted a proposal to Treasury for $50 million for Micro Lending in CA, and Comerica Bank has agreed to serve as the conduit for any funds we raise. We are promoting this bold ask through our networks, including AEO, who has also submitted a national request to create a $500 million pool for micro lending. In addition to your prayers and incantations, please contact Jaime Lizarraga to express your support for our proposal:; phone: 202-225-0100; refer to the meeting of November 18 th.

Farm Bill’s Rural Micro-Enterprise Grant Program: CAMEO met with the staff and outgoing Administrator of Business Programs, Ben Anderson. We proposed that California receive 20% or $800,000 of this new grant program to make up for the years of gross underfunding (CA gets less than 1% of USDA funding). We also advocated for funds to be allocated to USDA regional offices to make it easier- and cheaper- for nonprofits to apply. The proposed regulations will be offered for public comment at an unidentified date next year. In the meantime, our lobbyist, Cathy Townsend, will be getting letters of support from various legislators representing our rural regions. At least we are finally providing a strong voice on behalf of California’s Micro-Enterprise development work.

CAMEO has no choice but to mount a bold public policy strategy during these chaotic times. I am proud to be representing organizations that are truly meeting the needs of local small business owners and who are poised to ramp up to meet the increased demand – by businesses needing capital, and by the growing self employed. We will keep in touch to update you on progress on any of the issues mentioned above.

Keeping the faith,

Claudia Viek