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BMO Announces Early Actions Supporting $5 Billion Commitment to Inclusive Economic Recovery in the U.S.

BMO Financial Group today announced an update on BMO EMpower, their five-year, $5 billion pledge for inclusive economic recovery in the United States. Announced in November 2020, BMO EMpower was created to help close the racial wealth gap by addressing key barriers faced by minority businesses, communities and families.

The commitments are comprised of six key pillars:

  • $3 billion for community reinvestment in affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization
  • $500 million for commercial economic equity to accelerate lending for Black- and Latinx-owned commercial businesses
  • $500 million in mortgage and home equity lending in low-to-moderate income level communities
  • $500 million to advance corporate social responsibility efforts, including supplier/business diversity initiatives, diverse talent advancement programs and increased philanthropy targeted at systemic change
  • $300 million for small business lending to expand resources for women-, Black- and Latinx-owned small businesses
  • $300 million for critical support for municipal and non-profit clients

“Banks have a critically important responsibility to provide access to capital, help foster economic equity and close the racial wealth gap,” said Eric Smith, vice chair, BMO Harris Bank. “At BMO, our five year, $5 billion EMpower initiative is a long term, multi-pronged commitment aimed at doing just that, with a specific focus on making direct investments, developing new products and services and fostering key community partnerships. While we are proud of our progress to date, our work is not done.”

BMO’s accomplishments to date in support of BMO EMpower include:

Community Reinvestment

  • BMO’s Community Development team financed six Oak Street Health clinics located in underserved communities across Chicagoland, providing $12.3 million in lending to Turner Impact Capital’s Turner Healthcare Facilities Fund in addition to making a separate $5 million investment in the Fund. Oak Street provides primary care and plays a critical role in bringing COVID-19 testing and vaccination to the communities they serve. The Turner Healthcare Facilities Fund is a social impact investment platform focused on expanding affordable access to high-quality medical care and improving health outcomes in underserved communities across the country.
  • In partnership with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, BMO provided two grants through the Affordable Housing Program totaling more than $1.5 million for the Milwaukee Soldiers Home project, the renovation and restoration of six historic buildings to serve Wisconsin veterans in need. The buildings, constructed in the late 1860s, include some of the oldest and most historic buildings in the federal Veterans Administration system and make up one of the three original Soldiers Homes in the U.S. This important Wisconsin landmark was redeveloped to create 101 housing units for veterans and their families facing homelessness.

Commercial Economic Equity

  • BMO launched a new $30 million fund focused on private equity and venture capital firms that support minority and women-owned businesses across a broad range of industries.
  • BMO made its first investment of $3 million in a new fund called CAST US, a $70 million initiative recently launched to bridge the capital and resource gap impacting Black, Latinx and women entrepreneurs in Chicago’s South and West Side neighborhoods.
  • Andrea Zopp, managing partner of CAST US commented, “We are thrilled to have BMO Harris as a partner in the CAST US fund. They and our other partners understand the positive impact of investing in businesses like Every Body Eat®, AYO Foods, 86 Repairs, Gray Matter Analytics, DrugViu, Inc. and LiftUp enterprises. We’re investing in entrepreneurs who can create and sustain more jobs, increase homeownership and help stabilize our Chicago economy.” 

Mortgage and Home Equity Lending

  • To help families make much need home improvements or repairs, BMO created the BMO Community Home Improvement Loan, which provides a $5,000-$10,000 loan with expanded guidelines for those in low or moderate income communities.
  • BMO expanded their homebuying assistance programs to DACA recipients, including low down payment mortgages and down payment assistance.

Corporate Social Responsibility

  • BMO created a new supplier diversity initiative, BMO Elevate, a 12-month business development program focusing on diverse businesses. 17 diverse suppliers from across North America were matched with executive sponsors from across BMO’s lines of business to share best practices and help navigate working with large organizations. The suppliers also have the opportunity to showcase their company, capabilities and innovation and discuss areas of development.
  • BMO and Rush University System for Health announced the donation of $10 million to create the new Rush BMO Institute for Health Equity. The institute is focused on removing obstacles to healthcare such as poverty and discrimination and increasing life expectancy in underserved neighborhoods.
  • BMO donated $1 million to the Obama Foundation toward the construction of the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) in Jackson Park, Chicago. The donation is targeted to the OPC Construction Workforce Initiative, which is designed to create an inclusive construction workforce trained with skills to build the OPC and create a diverse pipeline of talent that can be funneled to construction projects across the city.
  • Additional donations in support of racial justice efforts were made to a number of organizations across BMO’s seven-state footprint, including Chicago Community Trust’s Neighborhood Entrepreneurship Lab and Nuestro Futuro Fund, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago – Racial Justice League, Chicago Urban League, Urban League of Greater Madison, YWCA Southeast Wisconsin, Greater Twin Cities United Way, Urban Ventures of Minnesota and Asian Americans Advancing Justice. 

Small Business Lending

  • BMO for Black and Latinx Small Businesses was established to increase access to capital and offer meaningful networking opportunities, educational content and tools to Black and Latinx small business owners in Illinois and northwest Indiana. Through April 30, the program has approved 150 loan applications totalling more than $6 million and has contributed nearly 200 volunteer hours with local community partners to educate business owners on personal and business finances and marketing.
  • Marseil Jackson, owner of Dream Team Enterprises and participant in BMO for Black and Latinx Small Businesses commented, “Access to capital provided the company with a gift to shift during the pandemic. As a medical supply company we were able to shift to the distribution of PPE supplies which allowed the company to operate successfully. The BMO for Black and Latinx Business program is what I and other minority businesses needed to help sustain and even grow our business.”

Municipal and Non-Profit Lending

  • BMO financed acquisitions and renovations of schools to help LEARN Charter School Network grow its network of tuition-free, high performing schools to underserved areas in Chicago, North Chicago and Waukegan via $12 million in lending. LEARN serves over 4,000 students across 10 schools.

BMO EMpower builds on their continued focus on creating a society with zero barriers to inclusion. Supporting an inclusive society is one of the three key commitments in BMO’s purpose to Boldly Grow the Good.

For more information on BMO’s commitment to inclusive economic recovery, visit the BMO EMpower webpage.

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