Another group of lenders is pleading for leniency from federal regulation.

Community development financial institutions, or CDFIs, focus on low- to moderate-income groups that are typically unbanked or underbanked. While typically small in size, the nation's roughly 1,000 CDFIs, including 122 community development banks, are largely subject to the same rules that govern the entire banking industry.

That could change depending on who makes it to the White House.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton introduced a plan last week that would "reduce unnecessary regulations" for small banks and credit unions, while calling for increased support for CDFIs. At the same time, she vowed to be "tough" in defending "the new rules on big Wall Street banks."

Such relief would be welcomed by community development banks. The Community Development Bankers Association sent a letter in late June to Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen and other high-ranking Fed officials highlighting the trade group's concerns with elements of the Dodd-Frank Act, the Bank Secrecy Act and Basel III.

"We are concerned that many well-intended Dodd-Frank regulatory changes are having [the] unintended consequence of significantly reducing credit availability and access to financial services" in low- to moderate-income communities, wrote Jeannine Jacokes, the association's chief executive. "The effect of regulatory changes [is] to reduce flexibility and increase cost."

BankPlus in Belzoni, Miss., is one of the institutions that is taking issue with existing regulation.

Regulation, while well-intended, has exacerbated problems in low- and moderate-income areas of the country, particularly in rural communities, said Max Yates, a senior executive vice president at BankPlus who works in rural areas. The $2.5 billion-asset BankPlus is the only bank that operates in seven communities, he said.

BankPlus, along with other banks, has taken hits from disclosure-related fees tied to the "Know Before You Owe" rule designed to improve transparency for mortgages. BankPlus has been eating the extra cost of those fees, Yates said.

To be sure, smaller institutions were able to secure some "significantly helpful" exemptions to the ability-to-repay rule, Yates said. That rule requires mortgage originators to "make a good faith, reasonable determination of a consumer's ability to repay" a loan.

Community development banks are also struggling with the Bank Secrecy Act. Regulators have stepped up BSA and anti-money-laundering enforcement in recent years.

"BSA compliance standards are the same for small banks as the largest bank," Jacokes wrote in her letter to Yellen. "More and more banks will not accept or open accounts with [money service businesses]. When this happens, the business can no longer offer the service and consumers are forced to go to expensive check cashing businesses."

High standards for money-services businesses are concerning to Rebecca Humphries, a senior vice president and senior loan officer at Neighborhood National Bank in San Diego. The $55 million-asset bank, which has been working with those businesses since 2001 to help customers access financial services, is seeing more regulatory scrutiny, she said.

"Because we bank them and they're a niche of ours, the regulatory scrutiny [tied to BSA] … is even more heightened," added Humphries, who also serves on the board of the Community Development Bankers Association. "With the heightened scrutiny and the high cost of regulatory compliance, a lot of banks are exiting."

With that in mind, bankers with ties to CDFIs want more regulatory carve-outs.

"We would like to push for more exemptions that make sense for community banks," said Darrin Williams, chief executive of Southern Bancorp, the holding company for a number of CDFIs, including one in Arkansas.

The company, which was founded in 1986, was a pet project of the Clintons, who wanted an institution to support in an "economically depressed" rural area in much the same way that Shore Bank was serving the South Side of Chicago, Williams said. Hillary Clinton served on Southern's board.

Southern now has 42 branches and $1.1 billion in assets.

"I think their vision is being realized," Williams said.

Increasing the number of community development banks was one of Bill Clinton's campaign promises when he ran for president in 1992. "That came from the Arkansas experience," Jacokes said.

While the Clintons' interest in community development banks spans three decades, it remains to be seen whether Hillary Clinton, if elected president, will be able to follow through on her plan to boost support for those institutions.

Any support would be embraced by CDFIs.

"We believe that some modest modifications could make a significant difference in the economic well-being" of low- and moderate-income communities "across the nation," Jacokes wrote in her letter to Yellen.

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