Indian Country Included in OCC's Community Reinvestment Act Modernization Final Rule
May 20, 2020
On Wednesday, May 20, 2020, the Office of the Comptroller of Currency (OCC) announced the release of their Final Rule to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) with an increased focus on promoting capital and investment in Indian Country.
These updated regulations are historic for Indian Country in a few key ways. They provide tribal governments parity with other governments to determine the financial needs of their respective communities. They also encourage innovative partnerships between Indian Country and financial institutions to support community revitalization and development.
Increasing tribal access to banking services and credit will help finance community development by making more funding available for economic development, public safety, housing, infrastructure, and education. These improvements to the CRA could provide long-term funding for tribal governments and secure access to capital to help tribes sustain thriving communities.
“Visiting tribal lands with NAFOA last year had a profound effect on my understanding of the needs facing Indian Country. By issuing a Final Rule to strengthen and modernize Community Reinvestment Act regulations, the OCC is taking a big step to make capital and credit more accessible in Indian Country. I deeply appreciate the input and partnership with many tribal leaders and others from the Native American Community throughout the development of this rule, which will make a profound difference for so many.”
-Joseph Otting, U.S. Comptroller of the Currency
The Main Objectives of the Final Rule are:
Clarifying what counts for CRA credit: The Final Rule clarifies what qualifies for CRA credit by requiring regulators to develop, publish, and maintain a publicly available list of pre-approved CRA activities. The list is illustrative, not exhaustive, and will be updated regularly. The rule establishes a process for stakeholders to submit additional items for inclusion on the list.
The (non-exhaustive) list of activities that count for CRA credit includes many activities that are specifically aimed at spurring investment in Indian Country.
Updating where bank activity counts: The Final Rule helps reduce CRA deserts and hotspots by clarifying when banks can receive credit outside their CRA assessment areas, requiring banks to designate additional assessment areas where they have concentrations of deposits outside their facility-based assessment areas. It also provides banks more flexibility to serve areas with identified needs, including in low- and moderate-income census tracts, distressed areas, underserved areas, and Indian Country.
Banks will get CRA credit for serving Indian Country even if Indian Country is not part of their assessment area.
Measuring CRA Performance More Objectively: The Final Rule measures CRA performance more objectively by assessing the distribution and the impact of a bank’s CRA activity. It would require examiners to assess what portion of a bank’s retail lending is targeted to low- and moderate-income individuals and areas within their assessment areas and to evaluate the impact of that activity by comparing the ratio of the value of all of a bank’s CRA activity (lending, investment, and services) divided by its retail deposits to an objective benchmark in each assessment area and at the overall bank level.
Banks will receive a multiplier (i.e. boosted score) for conducting CRA activities within Indian Country.
For more information on the Final Rule, see the OCC's prepared fact sheet.
"The future for so many communities throughout Indian Country looks a little brighter today. Indian Country needs an influx of capital, now more than ever, to address some of the longstanding infrastructure and community development challenges that we face. We are grateful to the Comptroller for recognizing the CRA’s shortfalls for communities like ours, and undertaking the long process of modernization to remedy them."
- Cristina Danforth, Board President, NAFOA
About the Community Reinvestment Act
The CRA was enacted in 1977 to address “redlining,” a practice where banks would deny credit to individuals based on where they live. The law requires the federal banking regulators—the OCC, FDIC, and the Federal Reserve—to assess each depository institution’s record of helping meet the credit needs of the low and moderate-income communities it is chartered to serve. Despite the need in Indian Country for investments the CRA could provide, the Act has done little to help Indian Country since its enactment.
Over the past few years, the OCC has prioritized modernizing the CRA’s regulations so it can better serve communities, like Indian Country, that have been left behind. The OCC has solicited comments and participated in community tours to help determine where the CRA is falling short.
In August 2019, NAFOA and the OCC hosted a bus tour of pueblo communities in New Mexico as well as a community discussion with a group of tribal economic development stakeholders from the government, private, and non-profit sectors. The tour provided a unique opportunity to share ideas and expertise regarding the importance of a modernized CRA that would better serve the financial needs of tribal governments and citizens.
In April 2020, NAFOA submitted comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that was released on December 12, 2019. NAFOA's comments largely applauded the agency's approach and suggested ways in which the Final Rule could be as inclusive as possible for Native communities in its definition of "Indian Country." NAFOA also requested that the Final Rule ensure projects occurring on Native lands actually benefit the Native communities that they purport to serve. These comments are reflected in the Final Rule.
The FDIC, responsible for regulating about 15% of the nation's banks, signed onto the December 12, 2019 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. However, despite their support of updates to the CRA, they announced on May 20, 2020, that they were not yet fully prepared to sign on to the Final Rule with the OCC. The Federal Reserve Board, responsible for regulating another 15% of institutions is also supportive of modernizing the CRA, however, they did not sign onto either the Proposed Regulations or the Final Rule. While it is disappointing that this Final Rule does not have the support of the entire regulatory community, the OCC regulates about 70% of the nation's financial institutions, and NAFOA believes that the impact on tribal communities will still be substantial.
NAFOA will continue to work with the OCC and stakeholders across Indian Country to ensure the rollout of this modernization effort is carried out as intended with the greatest benefit possible to tribal communities.