Congressman Fattah Introduces Bill to Spur the National Cooperative Movement

WASHINGTON D.C., Dec. 15 - Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Congressional leader for the national cooperative movement, especially urban co-ops, today introduced the National Cooperative Development Act.

"It's high time for Cooperatives -- a great idea that has emerged from and gained success in our urban neighborhoods as well as rural communities - to move onto the national radar," said Fattah, whose Philadelphia district includes numerous thriving co-ops. "This legislation brings federal resources and a policy priority to the effort.

"Cooperatives are a special kind of economic stimulus. Cooperatives benefit the communities they serve while building opportunities for shared wealth. Cooperatives are truly vehicles for protecting the middle class and creating economic growth," Fattah said.

The Fattah bill, H.R. 3677, authorizes $25 million a year through 2016 to create and fund the National Cooperative Development Center.

Cooperatives are owned and controlled by the people who use the co-op's services or buy its goods. They range in size from the local corner store to Fortune 500 companies, and can include insurance, healthcare, housing, recreation materials and equipment as well as more traditional uses such as rural electricity. Overall, U.S. cooperatives account for more than $3 trillion in assets, over $500 billion in total revenue, $25 billion in wages and benefits, and nearly 1 million jobs.

"We have food deserts in low-income urban areas where food cooperatives are often the only enterprises willing to bring food security and nutrition while anchoring the buy-local campaigns we see happening everywhere," Fattah said. "Every new or expanded cooperative, regardless of the goods or services it provides, will be a job creator and an economic engine where it's most needed."

Fattah pointed out that cooperatives still face many problems, including difficulty in gaining access to capital, which can stunt the growth of even the most successful enterprises.

In addition, Fattah noted, "the unique nature of the cooperative ownership model requires that cooperative operators receive specialized training and assistance in setting up the governance, operations, and financial structures that are required to run a successful cooperative.

"Co-ops need help that the federal government will now be in a position to provide," Fattah said. "The legislation addresses these problems by establishing the Development Center to provide capital, training, and other resources to foster cooperative development."

The National Cooperative Development Center will:

* Award grants to nonprofit organizations, colleges, and universities so that they can provide technical assistance to operating cooperatives or groups that are attempting to form cooperatives;

* Provide guidance, information on best practices and technical assistance to communities seeking to establish cooperatives;

* Create a revolving loan fund to provide loans and seed capital to groups who are attempting to form cooperatives;

* Provide funding for training of providers of technical assistance and supporting existing professional development training for organizations engaged in cooperative development;

* Establish cooperative development centers in areas that currently do not have them.