Empowerment Zones Program


The purpose of this program is to provide for the establishment of Empowerment Zones, Enterprise Communities and Renewal Communities in urban and rural areas, to stimulate the creation of new Jobs empowering low-income persons and families receiving public assistance to become economically self-sufficient, particularly for the disadvantaged and long-term unemployed, and to promote revitalization of economically distressed areas. The Renewal Community, Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Community (RC/EZ/EC) program is the first step in rebuilding communities in America's poverty-stricken inner-cities and rural heartland. It is designed to empower people and communities all across this nation by inspiring Americans to work together to create jobs and opportunity. Under this program, the Federal government has designated areas that meet certain poverty and distress criteria and prepare creative strategic plans for revitalization. During Round I the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development designated eight urban Empowerment Zones and 65 Enterprise Communities, and the Secretary of Agriculture designated 33 rural Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities. Round I designated areas receive Federal grant funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, Social Services Block Grant (Title XX). In addition they receive special tax benefits and special consideration for funding under other Federal programs. During Round II the Secretary of HUD designated 15 additional urban Empowerment Zones in December 1998. Round II EZs are receiving tax incentives and Federal grants. In December 2001, HUD and USDA designated 8 new urban and 2 new rural Empowement Zones, respectively. HUD also designated 40 Renewal Communities, 28 in urban areas and 12 in rural areas. These Round III EZs and Renewal Community designees will receive tax incentives; currently there is no plan to provide grant money funds with these designations.

General information about this opportunity
Last Known Status
Deleted 08/20/2009 (Archived.)
Program Number
Federal Agency/Office
Type(s) of Assistance Offered
Project Grants.
Program Accomplishments
On December 31, 2001, HUD designated 8 new Urban Round III Empowerment Zones, as well as 40 Renewal Communities in urban and rural areas nationwide. The 8 new EZs are: Pulaski county AR; Fresno, CA; Jacksonville, FL; Syracuse, NY; Yonkers, NY; Oklahoma City, OK; San Antonio, TX; Tucson, AZ. Please see the Website for a listing of the 40 Renewal Communities. USDA designated 2 new Rural Empowerment Zones, Aroostook, ME and Middle Rio Grande, TX.
Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, Title XIII, Public Law 103-66, Sections 952-954; Taxpayer Relief Act of l997, Public Law l05-34; Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000, Public Law 106-554.
Who is eligible to apply/benefit from this assistance?
Applicant Eligibility
(Note: This criteria is for the "urban zone" applicants. Eligibility criteria for Renewal Communities may differ slightly. Interested parties are advised to Review the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000 or visit the urban EZ/EC website at www.hud.gov/office/cpd/ezec for more detailed eligibilty criteria for Renewal Communities. Also, see the Dept of Agriculture section for "rural zone" applicant eligibility.) A nominated urban area may be eligible for designation if the area: (a) Has a maximum population which is the lesser of (1) 200,000 or (2) the greater of 50,000 or 10 percent of the population of the most populous city located within the nominated area; (b) is one of pervasive poverty, unemployment and general distress; (c) does not exceed twenty square miles in total land area; (d) demonstrates a poverty rate which is not less than: (1) 20 percent in each census tract; (2) for at least 90 percent of the census tracts within the nominated urban area, the poverty rate must be not less than 25 percent; (3) census tracts with no population are treated as having a poverty rate that meets the standards of (l) and (2) above; and (4) a census tract that has a population of less than 2,000 is treated as having a poverty rate that meets the requirements of (l) and (2) above if more than 75 percent of the tract is zoned for commercial or industrial use; (e) Has a continuous boundary, or consists of not more than six(6)noncontiguous parcels. A nominated urban area must not contain a noncontiguous parcel unless such parcel separately meets the criteria set forth in (1) and (2) above, except for sites that can be developed. The total area of the noncontiguous parcels must not exceed 2,000 acres; (f) Is located entirely within the jurisdiction of the unit or units of general local government making the nomination, and is located in no more than two contiguous States; and (g) Does not include any portion of a central business district, as this term is used in the most recent Census of Retail Trade, unless the poverty rate for each census tract in the district is not less than 35 percent.
Beneficiary Eligibility
Residents and businesses in designated urban areas.
Interested parties should visit the urban RC/EZ/EC website (www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/ezec) and the rural EZ/EC website (www.ezec.gov) periodically for updated information on applying for future designations. There is no funding available to make additional Renewal Community or Empowerment Zone designations in FY 2002 and FY 2003. The following describes what was required from Round III EZ applicants and what could be required in a comprehensive strategic plan for future applicants: The strategic plan, which accompanies the application for designation, must be developed in accordance with four key principles, which also will be used to evaluate the plan. The principles are: (l) strategic vision for change, which identifies what the community will become and a strategic map for revitalization; (2) community-based partnerships, involving the participation of all segments of the community; (3) economic opportunity, including job creation within the community and throughout the region; and (4) sustainable community development, to advance the creation of livable and vibrant communities through comprehensive approaches that coordinate economic, physical, environmental, community and human development. The strategic plan must include the following elements: (l) vision and values the community's strategic vision for change, a statement of what the community wishes to be like in the future, and a statement of the community's values that guided the creation of the vision; (2) community assessment - a comprehensive assessment of existing conditions and trends within the community, which includes, as a minimum: (i) assessment of problems and opportunities; (ii) resource analysis; (3) goals - a statement of a comprehensive and holistic set of goals to be achieved through implementation of the strategic plan throughout the l0-year implementation period, and a statement of the strategies the community proposes to use to achieve the strategic plan goals, and the identification of priority objectives; (4) implementation plan is a detailed plan that outlines how the community will implement its strategic plan over the first two-year implementation period. The plan will include: projects and programs, tax incentive utilization plan, governance plan, and community performance assessment; (5) strategic planning process documentation - a description of the process the community used to select the boundaries of the proposed Empowerment Zone, including the developable sites and to prepare the strategic plan; and (6) documentation of commitments - letters of commitment, resolutions committing public or private resources, and other documentation that will demonstrate the level of public and private resources, both inside and outside the nominated area, that will be available to implement the strategic plan and increase economic opportunity in the nominated Empowerment Zone.
What is the process for applying and being award this assistance?
Pre-Application Procedure
None. This program is excluded from coverage under E.O. 12372.
Application Procedure
(Note: Nomination criteria for Renewal Communities may differ slightly. Please consult the urban EZ/EC website (www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/ezec) or the rural EZ/EC website (www.ezec.gov) periodically for updated information). Nomination criteria for urban Round III EZs was: One or more local governments and the State or States in which an urban area is located may nominate such area for designation as an Empowerment Zone if: (1) The urban area meets the requirements for eligibility; (2) the urban area is within the jurisdiction of a State or States and local government(s) that have the authority to nominate the urban area for designation and that provide written assurances satisfactory to the Secretary that the strategic plan will be implemented; (3) all information furnished by the nominating State(s) and local government(s) is determined by the Secretary to be reasonably accurate; and (4) the State(s) and local government(s) certify that no portion of the area nominated is already included in an Empowerment Zone or in an other area currently nominated for designation as an Empowerment Zone (but it may include an Enterprise Community).
Award Procedure
The Secretary of HUD will review applications for the designation of nominated urban areas to determine the quality of the strategic plans submitted by nominating State local government(s); other factors established by HUD; and geographic diversity.
Applications must be received by the deadline established by the Secretary of HUD.
Approval/Disapproval Decision Time
4 to 6 months following application deadline.
The Secretary of HUD may waive for good cause any provision of the program not required by statute, where it is determined that the requirement would produce a result adverse to the purpose and objectives of the program.
To be determined.
How are proposals selected?
Interested parties should visit the urban EZ/EC website (www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/ezec) and the rural EZ/EC website (www.ezec.gov) periodically for updated information. The following describes criteria used for selecting Round III EZ applicants and what could be required for future rounds. In choosing among nominated urban areas eligible for designation, the Secretary shall consider: (1) The quality of the strategic plan in accordance with the key principles and evaluative criteria set forth in subsection 598.215. (2) The effectiveness of the assurance made that the strategic plan will be implemented. (3) The extent to which an application proposes activities that are creative and innovative in comparison to other applications. (4) Such other factors established by HUD. Such factors include, but are not limited to, the degree of need demonstrated by the nominated area. HUD, in its discretion, may choose to select for designation a lower rated approvable application over an otherwise higher rated application in order to increase the level of geographic diversity of designations made under the program.
How may assistance be used?
DESIGNATION AS AN EMPOWERMENT ZONE. Currently, each urban EZ is receiving such amounts as indicated by Congress on a year-to-year basis over the life of the program.
What are the requirements after being awarded this opportunity?
HUD will require periodic reports for the Empowerment Zones and Renewal Communities designated pursuant to this part. These reports will identify the community, local government and State actions which have been taken in accordance with the strategic plan and tax incentive utilization plan. In addition to these reports, such other information relating to designated Empowerment Zones and Renewal Communities as HUD shall request from time to time, including information documenting nondiscrimination in hiring and employment by business within the designated Empowerment Zone or Renewal Community, shall be submitted promptly.
Periodic performance reviews. HUD will regularly evaluate the progress of the strategic plan and tax incentive utilization plan in each designated Empowerment Zone and Renewal Community on the basis of performance reviews to be conducted on site and other information submitted. HUD may also commission evaluations of the Empowerment Zone and Renewal Community programs as a whole by an impartial third party, at such intervals as HUD may establish.
Other Assistance Considerations
Formula and Matching Requirements
Length and Time Phasing of Assistance
Period of designation: The December 31, 2001 designation of areas as new Empowerment Zones and Renewal Communities shall remain in full effect during the period beginning on the date of designation and ending on the earliest of: (a) December 31, 2009; (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.
Who do I contact about this opportunity?
Regional or Local Office
All HUD Field offices with a Community Planning and Development Division, ATTN: Director of Community Planning and Development.
Headquarters Office
HUD Office of Community Planning and Development,RC/EZ/EC Office (202) 708-6339. A dedicated 1-800-998-9999 number has been established to answer questions and make referrals for information concerning eligibility criteria, the application process, technical assistance and workshops.
Website Address
Financial Information
Account Identification
FY 02 $45,000,000; and FY 03 $29,805,000; and FY 04 est $0. (NOTE: Amounts reported reflect allocation of new budget authority rather than obligation amounts.)
Range and Average of Financial Assistance
$5.4 million per year for each Round I and II urban EZ. At this time, Renewal Communities and Round III EZs are to receive tax incentives only.
Regulations, Guidelines and Literature
24 CFR Part 598 and 599 Designation of Round III Urban Empowerment Zones and Renewal Communities; Interim Rule. Also, see "Tax Incentive Guide for Business in the Renewal Communities, Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities," available by calling 1-800-998-9999.
Examples of Funded Projects
Not applicable.


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