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.

General information about this opportunity
Last Known Status
Deleted 10/11/2010 (Archived.)
Program Number
Federal Agency/Office
Agency: Department of Agriculture
Office: Rural Development
Type(s) of Assistance Offered
Project Grants.
Program Accomplishments
Leveraging ratio is 17:1.
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.
Who is eligible to apply/benefit from this assistance?
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.
A Notice Inviting Applications would be published in the Federal Register.
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
A Notice Inviting Applications, to be published in the Federal Register.
Award Procedure
Round II Designations are published in the Federal Register and are effective as of the date of publication.
Published in the Federal Register.
Approval/Disapproval Decision Time
Guidelines would be published in the Federal Register.
How are proposals selected?
Published in the Federal Register.
How may assistance be used?
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.
What are the requirements after being awarded this opportunity?
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.
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.
Other Assistance Considerations
Formula and Matching Requirements
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.
Who do I contact about this opportunity?
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.
Website Address
Financial Information
Account Identification
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.
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.


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