Testifiers detail need for Community Development Financial Institutions in PA

Advocates also highlight importance of support for workforce development

LANCASTER, Sept. 8—The House Majority Policy Committee convened a hearing Friday afternoon to discuss the need for Community Development Financial Institutions and support for workforce development in certain Pennsylvania communities.

“Everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed, regardless of background. We heard important testimony from organizations that are on the front lines fighting workforce development and financial issues while highlighting needs for underserved communities,” said Rep. Ismail Smith-Wade-El (D-Lancaster), who hosted Friday’s hearing. “Bolstering workforce development and implementing more CDFIs in Pennsylvania will lead to equity and inclusion, affordable housing, financial education and coaching and countless other benefits for those communities that have been left behind.”

The hearing, hosted at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster, featured testimony from the Spanish American Civic Association (SACA), Community First Fund, and ASSETS. Community First Fund is a private, nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that works to provide capital in places where it is not usually available. The organization launched its first community credit union in Lancaster in 2022, establishing a specialized framework for accessible services and financial coaching for low-income individuals and families.

“CDFIs break down barriers for underserved and marginalized populations to create opportunities to build credit, gain financial acumen, access capital, and build wealth,” said Jonathan Encarnacion, who serves on the Board of Directors for Community First Fund. “CDFIs like Community First Fund help revitalize neighborhoods and assist people living paycheck to paycheck to help them set their own financial goals and move toward accumulating their own wealth.”

Testifiers representing the Spanish American Civic Association detailed their Tec Centro program, a bilingual workforce development center founded in Lancaster. SACA testified that since launching in 2014, Tec Centro has provided workforce services to over 6,000 individuals, placing them in permanent employment, enrolling them in workforce programs, and increasing their language skills.

“By offering support for Community Development Financial Institutions and programs like Tec Centro, we can continue to reinforce workforce development opportunities and provide families with financial services that haven’t been offered before,” said House Majority Policy Chairman Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie). “We need to make sure no community or population in Pennsylvania is forgotten, so anything we can do to support underserved communities will be vital toward achieving that goal.”

Testimony from Friday’s hearing can be found here. More information about House Majority Policy Committee hearings can be found at pahouse.com/policy.