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OneUnited Bank receives U.S. Treasury service award

Howard Manly

The U.S. Treasury Department honored OneUnited Bank last week with its Bank Enterprise Award (BEA), the federal agency’s highest award for community service.

 The BEA program is administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund and provides an incentive to FDIC-insured banks to expand the availability of credit, investment capital and financial services in distressed urban and rural communities.

Accompanying the federal recognition was an award of $415,000, the maximum amount for any recipient.

In all, the CDFI Fund awarded nearly $18 million dollars in BEA grants to 59 banks across the country, and these grants in turn helped spur loans and investments in distressed communities by more than $400 million over the previous year.

“This award underscores OneUnited’s commitment to lending in underserved communities during the current economic downturn,” said Kevin Cohee, chairman and CEO of OneUnited Bank. “In 2011, OneUnited Bank generated over 100 loans totaling $60 million with over 80 percent in low to moderate income communities, compared to only $4 million in 2009.”

This year’s award marks the 10th time OneUnited has received the honor. Awards are provided on an annual basis and eligible institutions must comply with the rigorous requirements of the program. 

Cohee has paid more than lip service to the bank’s community lending policies. A few years ago, OneUnited opened a branch on Warren Street in Grove Hall. The bank had provided the financing for the redevelopment of the Silva Building in which the branch is located.

 “Opening the Grove Hall branch in a black-owned building represents an opportunity for black people to support black-owned businesses and re-channel wealth back into our community,” Cohee said at the time. “Our communities deserve access to quality financial products, not sub-prime gimmicks or predatory lending.”

OneUnited’s mission is to be the premier bank serving urban communities by promoting financial literacy and offering affordable financial services.

Through mergers and acquisitions of struggling community banks in Miami and Los Angeles, Cohee has taken the old Boston Bank of Commerce and transformed it into the first black-owned national bank with about $550 million in assets.

“We are honored by the recognition of our community development efforts as we continue to focus on generating more loans and promoting financial literacy in urban communities,” Cohee said.