Senators Stabenow, Blunt Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Create Job Opportunities in America’s Hardest-Hit Cities

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced legislation that will spur economic growth and create job opportunities in 30 cities by improving the Empowerment Zone program. The Empowering Jobs Act of 2015 will extend the Empowerment Zone program for two years and make the program more effective by expanding the way businesses and local governments can take advantage of their allocations of tax-exempt bonds. The Stabenow-Blunt bill will ease the requirements for how these bonds can be used and encourage more businesses to invest in America's hardest-hit cities.

"Empowerment Zones are key to bringing economic growth to struggling cities," said Sen. Stabenow. "Local businesses in Detroit already see benefits from this important program, but right now their money is being left on the table because of unnecessary restrictions. This bill will encourage growth by allowing more businesses to hire workers and invest in our cities, which will keep moving our country forward."

"If enacted, the legislation introduced by Senators Stabenow and Blunt would be a great tool to help jumpstart new investment in Detroit's empowerment zone and create employment opportunities for our residents," said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. "We are seeing a renewed interest in investing in Detroit. These proposed modifications to the Empowerment Zone program would make it a lot easier for us to bring more economic development plans to reality."

Empowerment Zones were established by Congress in 1994 as a way to boost economic development in particularly struggling cities through tax incentives, grants, and tax-exempt financing. The Empowerment Zone bonds encourage the construction of economic development projects like commercial and manufacturing centers. The Empowering Jobs Act of 2015 will allow the 35 percent in-zone hiring requirement for the bonds to be met by hiring 35 percent of people from distressed Census tracts within the city in which the Empowerment Zone is located.

Sen. Stabenow fought to extend Empowerment Zones as part of the EXPIRE Act, which would have extended a number of expiring tax provisions for 2014 and 2015. The Tax Increase Prevention Act was passed into law to retroactively extend the Empowerment Zone program through the end of 2014.