Native Hawaiians can get low-interest loans through program

Honolulu, Hawaii (AP) 11-07

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs during November launched a new program to provide fast, low-interest loans to Native Hawaiian consumers and businesses.

The OHA Malama Loan program features a five-year, 5 percent fixed rate on up to $75,000.

The loans can be used by Native Hawaiians for home improvements and education and by Hawaiian-owned businesses to grow their operations. Loans will be approved and disbursed within five days after applications are received.

“We expect the OHA Malama Loan to offer the tools for Native Hawaiians to chart and achieve a life-changing experience that does its part towards building a better community,” OHA chairwoman Haunani Apoliona said.

The program is the primary feature of the restructured Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund, which Congress established in 1987. The federal Administration for Native Americans (ANA) was required to award funding and to oversee OHA’s implementation of the fund.

Over the years, the fund offered a business loan with a maximum limit of $75,000 for a term of no longer than five years.

The new loan program was created in response to ANA’s call for OHA to add more loan products, to reduce the loan approval process time and to serve Native Hawaiians as a lender of first resort, OHA officials said.

The new initiative was approved by ANA Commissioner Quanah Stamps.

“Native Hawaiian borrowers will be well-served by the greater flexibility of the loan and the speed and ease of loan approvals,” Stamps said.

Loan applications are available at First Hawaiian Bank branches, but the fund’s board of directors retains loan approval authority.

About $18 million in loans have been approved since the fund’s inception, with about $3 million in loans currently outstanding. About $24 million remains available for loans, but OHA expects the money to go quickly under the new program.

“OHA and First Hawaiian Bank estimate that the entire fund portfolio will be fully committed within two years of implementation,” Apoliona said.