Groups hope to see microlending programs at work in the Gulf Coast

The Christian Science Monitor poses the question this week: could microloans work to revitalize the Gulf Coast in the same way they have worked for poor areas of Africa and Asia?

Three years after Katrina, one-quarter of New Orleans small businesses remain closed. But the return or recovery of small businesses "is essential to the long-term stability of these neighborhoods," Christy Wallace Slater of the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation (LDRF) told the CS Monitor.

In the Institute for Southern Studies recent report, Faith in the Gulf, we reported on the vital work of Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ) and other faith-based groups and funders in community-centered redevelopment work along the Gulf Coast. This latest project by JFSJ is the first person-to-person microloan program in the country, and it will be partnering with contributors nationwide to provide loans to struggling small businesses along the Gulf Coast.

The campaign, called the 8th Degree, will give microloans ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, which will be distributed through the ASI Federal Credit Union (ASI). The JFSJ campaign is modeled on, which enables individuals to give a loan of any size directly to entrepreneurs in the developing world, the campaign aims to enlist individual Americans to do the same for hurricane-ravaged businesses, reports the CS Monitor.