Empowerment Zones Program

Published on AidPage by IDILOGIC on Jun 24, 2005

Administered by:

US Federal Government Agency (see all agencies)
Department of Agriculture , Rural Business-Cooperative Service
CFDA #: 10.772

Purpose of this 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 and long-term unemployed, and to promote revitalization of economically distressed areas.

Possible 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. All designations were made in consultation with the Community Empowerment Board, which the President established on September 9, 1993. For the purposes of this program, Round I refers to those EZs and ECs designated in 1994 and Round II refers to those designated in 1998. 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 will 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.

Who is eligible to apply...

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

Eligible Applicant Categories:
Eligible Functional Categories:

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

Note:This is a brief description of the credentials or documentation required prior to, or along with, an application for assistance.

About this section:

This section indicates who can apply to the Federal government for assistance and the criteria the potential applicant must satisfy. For example, individuals may be eligible for research grants, and the criteria to be satisfied may be that they have a professional or scientific degree, 3 years of research experience, and be a citizen of the United States. Universities, medical schools, hospitals, or State and local governments may also be eligible. Where State governments are eligible, the type of State agency will be indicated (State welfare agency or State agency on aging) and the criteria that they must satisfy.

Certain federal programs (e.g., the Pell Grant program which provides grants to students) involve intermediate levels of application processing, i.e., applications are transmitted through colleges or universities that are neither the direct applicant nor the ultimate beneficiary. For these programs, the criteria that the intermediaries must satisfy are also indicated, along with intermediaries who are not eligible.

How to apply...

Application Procedure:

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

Note: Each program will indicate whether applications are to be submitted to the Federal headquarters, regional or local office, or to a State or local government office.

Award Procedure:

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

Note: Grant payments may be made by a letter of credit, advance by Treasury check, or reimbursement by Treasury check. Awards may be made by the headquarters office directly to the applicant, an agency field office, a regional office, or by an authorized county office. The assistance may pass through the initial applicant for further distribution by intermediate level applicants to groups or individuals in the private sector.

Deadlines and process...


Published in the Federal Register.

Note: When available, this section indicates the deadlines for applications to the funding agency which will be stated in terms of the date(s) or between what dates the application should be received. When not available, applicants should contact the funding agency for deadline information.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time

Guidelines will be published in the Federal Register.

Preapplication Coordination

None. This program is excluded from coverage under E.O. 12372.

Note: This section indicates whether any prior coordination or approval is required with governmental or nongovernmental units prior to the submission of a formal application to the federal funding agency.



Note: In some cases, there are no provisions for appeal. Where applicable, this section discusses appeal procedures or allowable rework time for resubmission of applications to be processed by the funding agency. Appeal procedures vary with individual programs and are either listed in this section or applicants are referred to appeal procedures documented in the relevant Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).


Not applicable.

Note: In some instances, renewal procedures may be the same as for the application procedure, e.g., for projects of a non-continuing nature renewals will be treated as new, competing applications; for projects of an ongoing nature, renewals may be given annually.

Who can benefit...

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

About this section:

This section lists the ultimate beneficiaries of a program, the criteria they must satisfy and who specifically is not eligible. The applicant and beneficiary will generally be the same for programs that provide assistance directly from a Federal agency. However, financial assistance that passes through State or local governments will have different applicants and beneficiaries since the assistance is transmitted to private sector beneficiaries who are not obligated to request or apply for the assistance.

What types of assistance...

Project Grants

The funding, for fixed or known periods, of specific projects. Project grants can include fellowships, scholarships, research grants, training grants, traineeships, experimental and demonstration grants, evaluation grants, planning grants, technical assistance grants, survey grants, and construction grants.

How much financial aid...

Range and Average of Financial Assistance

From $500,000 to $40 million. Average: $6,300,000.

Note: This section lists the representative range (smallest to largest) of the amount of financial assistance available. These figures are based upon funds awarded in the past fiscal year and the current fiscal year to date. Also indicated is an approximate average amount of awards which were made in the past and current fiscal years.


Round I designated communities were funded through the Department of Health and Human Services, Title XX (Social Services) Program. Round I rural EZs received $40,000,000 each, ECs received approximately $2,947,368. Round II was funded through USDA Rural Development grant funds for two fiscal years. Round II rural EZs received $2 million for each of these two years, ECs received $250,000 for each of the two years.

Note: The dollar amounts listed in this section represent obligations for the past fiscal year (PY), estimates for the current fiscal year (CY), and estimates for the budget fiscal year (BY) as reported by the Federal agencies. Obligations for non-financial assistance programs indicate the administrative expenses involved in the operation of a program.

Account Identification


Note: Note: This 11-digit budget account identification code represents the account which funds a particular program. This code should be consistent with the code given for the program area as specified in Appendix III of the Budget of the United States Government.

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.

About this section

This section indicates the different types of projects which have been funded in the past. Only projects funded under Project Grants or Direct Payments for Specified Use should be listed here. The examples give potential applicants an idea of the types of projects that may be accepted for funding. The agency should list at least five examples of the most recently funded projects.

Program accomplishments...


Criteria for selecting proposals...

Published in the Federal Register.

Assistance considerations...

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.

Formula and Matching Requirements


A formula may be based on population, per capita income, and other statistical factors. Applicants are informed whether there are any matching requirements to be met when participating in the cost of a project. In general, the matching share represents that portion of the project costs not borne by the Federal government. Attachment F of OMB Circular No. A-102 (Office of Management and Budget) sets forth the criteria and procedures for the evaluation of matching share requirements which may be cash or in-kind contributions made by State and local governments or other agencies, institutions, private organizations, or individuals to satisfy matching requirements of Federal grants or loans.

Cash contributions represent the grantees' cash outlay, including the outlay of money contributed to the grantee by other public agencies, institutions, private organizations, or individuals. When authorized by Federal regulation, Federal funds received from other grants may be considered as the grantees' cash contribution.

In-kind contributions represent the value of noncash contributions provided by the grantee, other public agencies and institutions, private organizations or individuals. In-kind contributions may consist of charges for real property and equipment, and value of goods and services directly benefiting and specifically identifiable to the grant program. When authorized by Federal legislation, property purchased with Federal funds may be considered as grantees' in-kind contribution.

Maintenance of effort (MOE) is a requirement contained in certain legislation, regulations, or administrative policies stating that a grantee must maintain a specified level of financial effort in a specific area in order to receive Federal grant funds, and that the Federal grant funds may be used only to supplement, not supplant, the level of grantee funds.

Post assistance requirements...


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.

Note: This section indicates whether program reports, expenditure reports, cash reports or performance monitoring are required by the Federal funding agency, and specifies at what time intervals (monthly, annually, etc.) this must be accomplished.


In accordance with OMB Circular No. A-133 "Audits of States, Local Governments, and Non-Profit Organizations" as codified by USDA or 7 CFR Chapter XXX, Part 3052, nonfederal entities that expend $300,0000 or more in a year in Federal awards shall have a single or program-specific audit conducted for that year.

Note: This section discusses audits required by the Federal agency. The procedures and requirements for State and local governments and nonprofit entities are set forth in OMB Circular No. A-133. These requirements pertain to awards made within the respective State's fiscal year - not the Federal fiscal year, as some State and local governments may use the calendar year or other variation of time span designated as the fiscal year period, rather than that commonly known as the Federal fiscal year (from October 1st through September 30th).


To be determined.

Note: This section indicates the record retention requirements and the type of records the Federal agency may require. Not included are the normally imposed requirements of the General Accounting Office. For programs falling under the purview of OMB Circular No. A-102, record retention is set forth in Attachment C. For other programs, record retention is governed by the funding agency's requirements.



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.

Note: This section lists the legal authority upon which a program is based (acts, amendments to acts, Public Law numbers, titles, sections, Statute Codes, citations to the U.S. Code, Executive Orders, Presidential Reorganization Plans, and Memoranda from an agency head).

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.

Contact information...

Web Sites
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 Additional Contact Information - FMR Help.

Note: This section lists the agency contact person, address and telephone number of the Federal Regional or Local Office(s) to be contacted for detailed information regarding a program such as: (1) current availability of funds and the likelihood of receiving assistance within a given period; (2) pre-application and application forms required; (3) whether a pre-application conference is recommended; (4) assistance available in preparation of applications; (5) whether funding decisions are made at the headquarters, regional or local level; (6) application renewal procedures (including continuations and supplementals) or appeal procedures for rejected applications; and (7) recently published program guidelines and material. However, for most federal programs, this section will instruct the reader to consult the so-called Appendix IV of the Catalog due to the large volume of Regional and Local Office Contacts for most agencies. This information is provided in Additional Contact Information (see below).

Headquarters Office

USDA, Office of Community Development, 300 7th Street SW., Reporters Building, Room 701, Washington, DC, 20024, ATTN: Maria Matthews, Deputy Administrator. Telephone: (202) 619-7980. Internet website: www.ezec.gov.

Note: This section lists names and addresses of the office at the headquarters level with direct operational responsibility for managing a program. A telephone number is provided in cases where a Regional or Local Office is not normally able to answer detailed inquiries concerning a program. Also listed are the name(s) and telephone number(s) of the information contact person(s) who can provide additional program information to applicants.

Additional Contact Information (Appendix IV)

Due to the large volume of regional and local office contacts for most agencies, full contact information is also provided separately here in a PDF format: