TRANSPORTATION, TREASURY, HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, THE JUDICIARY, THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, AND INDEPENDENT AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (House of Representatives - June 30, 2005)
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Mr. LoBIONDO. Mr. Chairman, I rise to make my colleagues aware of the failure of this bill to provide funding for a critically important economic development program. The Round II Empowerment Zone initiative provides Federal assistance to support the comprehensive revitalization of designated communities across the country. It is a 10-year program that targets Federal grants to distressed communities for social services and community redevelopment and provides tax and regulatory relief to attract and retain businesses.
In my district, the Cumberland County Empowerment Zone is a successful collaborative revitalization effort among the communities of Bridgeton, Millville, Vineland and Port Norris. Cumberland has committed nearly 100 percent of the $25 million that has been made available by HUD so far. Over 1,400 jobs have been created to date and over 166 housing units have been renovated, rehabilitated, constructed or purchased in EZ neighborhoods. Cumberland County has funded over 120 initiatives through the EZ program and has established a $4 million loan pool available to be reinvested back into the targeted communities. These projects are estimated to leverage a total of over $238 million in private, public and tax exempt bond financing. Put plainly, the Cumberland EZ has leveraged nearly $12 in private investment for every $1 of public funding, a remarkable achievement that demonstrates the success and promise of the Zone.
While I am very proud of the accomplishments of the Cumberland EZ, I recognize the reluctance of the subcommittee to provide funding for the program. As the subcommittee has noted before, the IG, and HUD itself, have found too many of the other Zones have had problems spending grant funds, accounting for expenditures and spending funds consistent with their strategic plans. I further recognize the reluctance of the subcommittee to continue to provide funds for the program when the Senate has sought to eliminate this program for the past 2 years.
While I main tremendously disappointed this bill fails to fund the Round II Empowerment Zone program, I will reluctantly vote for it. I do so with the hope that the Senate will find funding for this program, and that if that should happen, I will have the opportunity to work the subcommittee to restore funding for this critical program.
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