Empowerment Zones Program

The purpose of this program is to provide for the establishment of empowerment zones and enterprise communities in rural areas to stimulate the creation of new jobs, particularly for the disadvantaged, long-term unemployed, and out migration, and to promote revitalization of economically distressed areas.
Related Programs

Examples of Funded Projects

Descriptions of designated communities and information on activities in the strategic plans are available on the internet website above, or upon request, from the Headquarters Office.


Agency - Department of Agriculture

Established in 1862, the Department of Agriculture serves all Americans through anti-hunger efforts, stewardship of nearly 200 million acres of national forest and rangelands, and through product safety and conservation efforts. The USDA opens markets for American farmers and ranchers and provides food for needy people around the world.

Office - Consult your local telephone directory for the USDA Rural Development Area Office number.

If none are listed contact the appropriate Rural Development State Office listed in Appendix IV of the Catalog.


Program Accomplishments

Leveraging ratio is 17:1.

Uses and Use Restrictions

The USDA Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Community (EZ/EC) program is the first step in rebuilding communities in America's poverty-stricken rural communities.

It is designed to empower people and communities all across this Nation by inspiring Americans to work together to improve living conditions in their communities, and create jobs and opportunity.

Under this program the Federal government has designated 57 rural areas as EZs and ECs.

These communities meet certain poverty and distress criteria and have prepared creative strategic plans for revitalization.

For the purposes of this program, Round I refers to those EZs and ECs designated in 1994, Round II refers to those designated in 1998 and Round III refers to those EZs designated in 2002.

Empowerment Zones are eligible for private activity tax exempt bonding authority for qualifying enterprises and facilities.

Bond issues are subject to State private activity bond caps and special limits on issue size.

Round I Empowerment Zones are eligible for employer wage credits, with a phase out beginning in year 2005.

Empowerment Zones are eligible for accelerated Section 179 expensing for eligible property.

Certain environmental remediation expenditures for cleaning up sites in enterprise communities may be deducted in the year incurred by taxpayers, where those expenses would ordinarily be capitalized and depreciated over time.

EZ/ECs are also eligible for qualified academy zone taxable bonding authority, where the holder receives a tax credit in an amount equal to a credit rate (set by the Treasury Department) multiplied by the face amount of the bond.

Round II rural zones can each issue up to $60,000,000 in "new bonds" to Finance Zone facilities in addition to Round I type tax exempt bonds.

The benefits described above may or may not be all-inclusive.

EZ/EC communities benefit from additional legislated benefits in the future.

They receive special consideration in competition for funding under numerous Federal programs, including the National Service and Community Policing initiatives.

The Federal government will focus special attention on working cooperatively with designated enterprise communities to overcome regulatory impediments, to permit flexible use of existing Federal funds, and to assist these communities in meeting essential mandates.

Round II Empowerment Zones have authority to issue private activity bonds for qualified enterprises and facilities, which are not subject to State private activity bond caps, and enjoy a greater allowance for section 179 expending.

Round II Empowerment Zones do not enjoy the employer wage credits mentioned above.

All EC and EZ employers, however, may use the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, as such credit may be extended.

Eligibility Requirements

Applicant Eligibility

USDA is not currently authorized to grant new designations for the EZ/EC program.

If Congress authorizes a new round of designations, eligibility criteria based on the statutory requirements for the new round will be published in the Federal Register.

Beneficiary Eligibility

USDA is not currently authorized to grant new designations for the EZ/EC program. If Congress authorizes a new round of designations, eligibility criteria based on the statutory requirements for the new round will be published in the Federal Register.

Credentials/Documentation

A Notice Inviting Applications would be published in the Federal Register.

Aplication and Award Process

Preapplication Coordination

None.

This program is excluded from coverage under E.O.

12372.

Application Procedures

A Notice Inviting Applications, to be published in the Federal Register.

Award Procedures

Round II Designations are published in the Federal Register and are effective as of the date of publication.

Deadlines

Published in the Federal Register.

Authorization

Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, Title XIII, Public Law 103-66; Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, Public Law 105-34; Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 1999, Public Law 105-277; Public Law 106-554, The Community Renewal Tax Releif Act of 2000.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time

Guidelines would be published in the Federal Register.

Appeals

None.

Renewals

None.

Assistance Considerations

Formula and Matching Requirements

None.

Length and Time Phasing of Assistance

Period of designation: The designation of an area as an Empowerment Zone or Enterprise Community shall remain in full effect during the period beginning on the date of designation and ending on the earliest of: (1) the close of the tenth calendar year beginning on or after the date of designation; (b) the termination date designated by the State and local governments in their application for nomination; or (c) the date the Secretary modifies or revokes the designation.

Post Assistance Requirements

Reports

USDA requires semi-annual reports for the designated EZ/EC communities.

These reports will identify the community, local government and State actions that have been taken in accordance with the strategic plan.

In addition to these reports, such other information relating to designated empowerment zones and enterprise communities as USDA shall request from time to time shall be submitted promptly.

On the basis of this information and of on-site reviews, USDA will prepare and issue periodic EZ/EC reports.

Audits

In accordance with OMB Circular No. A-133 "Audits of States, Local Governments, and Nonprofit Organizations" as codified by USDA or 7 CFR Chapter XXX, Part 3052, nonfederal entities that expend $500,000 or more in a year in Federal awards shall have a single or program-specific audit conducted for that year.

Records

None.

Financial Information

Account Identification

12-2065-0-1-452.

Obigations

FY 07 $11,697,938; FY 08 est $10,724,000; and FY 09 est not reported.

Range and Average of Financial Assistance

From $500,000 to $40 million over a ten year period.

Regulations, Guidelines, and Literature

7 CFR Part 25 Designation of Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities. Program regulations may be found in 7 CFR Part 25 Designation of Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities.

Information Contacts

Regional or Local Office

Consult your local telephone directory for the USDA Rural Development Area Office number. If none are listed contact the appropriate Rural Development State Office listed in Appendix IV of the Catalog.

Headquarters Office

USDA, Office of Community Development, 300 7th Street S.W., Reporters Building, Room 266, Washington, DC, 20024, Attn: David Sears, Acting Director. Telephone: (202) 619-7980. Internet website: www.ezec.gov.

Criteria for Selecting Proposals

Published in the Federal Register.



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