Opportunity Fund was honored to be asked to brief State Controller John Chiang and his Council of Economic Advisors on issues related to microfinance and small business lending in California. We let them know about the significant, positive impact that microlending has on small business owners, their employees and the state economy. We also shared our thoughts on the challenges posed by high-cost, alternative business financing, an industry which is rapidly growing. Finally, we recommended key steps that the state could take to further facilitate affordable microlending in the areas of marketing and access to capital.
A key theme that came up from number of the Controller’s Economic Advisors was the ways in which increasing income inequality poses a potential risk for California’s economy. According to Leslie Appleton-Young, Chief Economist for the California Association of Realtors: “A major problem is housing affordability. The economy is fragile because of the haves and the have-nots.” Similarly, speaking about the decline in the savings rate by Americans, Dr. Lynn Reaser, Chief Economist for the Council stated that lower savings rates is “an issue for long term viability of people’s well- being.” Although sobering, we were pleased to hear that these senior economic officials understand that lack of opportunity is a key issue facing our state, an issue which affects us all.