“President Trump will direct federal agencies on Wednesday to steer spending toward certain distressed communities across the country—part of his administration’s push to turn a tax break included in last year’s $1.5 trillion tax package into a broader effort to combat poverty and geographic inequality.”

Trump to Steer More Money to Opportunity Zones
By Jim Tankersley
The New York Times
December 12, 2018

President Trump will direct federal agencies on Wednesday to steer spending toward certain distressed communities across the country—part of his administration’s push to turn a tax break included in last year’s $1.5 trillion tax package into a broader effort to combat poverty and geographic inequality.

Mr. Trump plans to sign an executive order at the White House that will push federal resources to so-called opportunity zones—a small but lucrative provision tucked into his signature tax cut that in recent months has vaulted to prominence among real estate developers and other investors.

The zones are urban, rural and suburban census tracts, designated by governors and approved by the Treasury Department, that either are high in poverty or border high-poverty areas. They are intended to bolster investment in areas that might otherwise lack interest by offering tax breaks to lure funding for start-ups, housing developments and other economic activity. Investors who fund projects in areas deemed opportunity zones can reduce—and in certain cases eliminate—taxes on investment gains.

Mr. Trump’s order seeks to encourage development in the zones and reassure investors that they are viable places for investment. It will create a White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, covering 13 federal agencies and led by Ben Carson, the Housing and Urban Development secretary. The council will work to prioritize opportunity zones in a variety of federal efforts, including grant funding, loan guarantees, infrastructure spending and crime prevention.

A White House official said that the 13 federal agencies included in the new council had already drawn up a list of at least 150 potential actions they could take to support investment in opportunity zones.

Mr. Hassett said that the administration “wants to create a race” for investors to pour money into the zones most in need of economic revitalization. He said the concept had helped energize philanthropists and investment professionals who worry about parts of the country being left behind economically and may need some incentive to direct their dollars there.

The zones, and the administration’s commitment of public support for them, will give those people “a device to help the places they care about, maybe for the first time,” Mr. Hassett said.

Officials said the new council would need to decide whether to prioritize the hardest-hit opportunity zones for federal aid, or to keep the focus broadly on all zones, including those that may have pockets of economic success.

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