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Tlaib calls for congressional investigation of 'opportunity zone' program

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib is asking a House committee to investigate a federal tax break program intended to help low-income communities. 

She’s sent a letter to the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee and two subcommittee chairs asking for a hearing on theOpportunity Zoneprogram.

Opportunity zones were created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 supposedly to encourage new investments in low-income areas by providing tax breaks to investors.

Last month, ProPublicapublished a scathing investigation of the program and the possible influence lobbyists that may have led to some non-qualifying sites being chosen as opportunity zones.

Tlaib is concerned the selection of communities for the Opportunity Zone program might have been influenced by billionaire developers and political donors.

“Some people, political donors, were given some type of access to deciding where those opportunity zones were going to go,” says Tlaib. “And some of those areas actually included areas that were not poor or did not qualify under the guidelines for the opportunity zone.”

Tlaib singles out a development headed up by billionaire Dan Gilbert in Detroit. Gilbert’s company has substantial real estate holdings in the part of the city selected for the opportunity zone. 

A company spokesperson insists it did not exert any inappropriate influence in the process of selecting the opportunity zone site in Detroit. 

On a websiteset up after the ProPublica story became public, the company says it has invested or committed nearly $6 billion dollars in long-term projects in Detroit since 2010. The company calls the ProPublica story “an intentional hit piece.”

Tlaib is optimistic that a committee hearing on the issue can take place before the end of the year. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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