Citibank announced an innovative program on Thursday that is designed to turn a $1 million investment into as much as $4 million in Community Reinvestment Act credit.

The bank is lending $1 million to the nonprofit National Association of Community Development Loan Funds. Citibank's loan will allow the community development group to borrow an additional $3 million to make mortgage and small-business loans in poor areas.

The bank plans to lend an additional $1 million to the group once the initial investment is absorbed and earn even more CRA credit.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency ruled this summer that banks may earn CRA credit for loans made by community development groups as well as for loans made to them.

"The leverage factor is impressive," said Pamela Flaherty, Citibank's senior vice president and director of global community relation. "Clearly that is an attraction for us and others."

While Citibank is the first bank to do this, other banks are expected to follow suit.

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