Trump signs order aimed at revitalizing economically distressed communities

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE on Wednesday signed an executive order aimed at helping economically distressed communities, building off a provision in his tax-cut law.

The order creates a White House panel dubbed the Opportunity and Revitalization Council, which will be led by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonAid restrictions sideline Puerto Rican civil society Trump administration ending delay on over B in Puerto Rico disaster aid HUD to roll back Obama-era housing desegregation rule MORE and consist of representatives from 13 federal agencies.

At a signing ceremony at the White House, Trump called the council a "very big thing" and said that the council will help utilize government resources to rebuild “impoverished neighborhoods that have been ignored by Washington in years past.”

ADVERTISEMENT

A senior White House official said ahead of the event that the council will be tasked with helping to engage with members of government at all levels about how to use funds to boost low-income communities.

The executive order is designed to supplement a piece of Trump's 2017 tax-cut law known as opportunity zones. Under the opportunity zone program, investors can receive capital-gains tax breaks if they invest in distressed areas that were certified by the Treasury Department.

More than 8,000 communities nationwide, where nearly 35 million people live, are in opportunity zones. Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Report of Bolton tell-all manuscript roils Trump defense Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg Mnuchin: US 'focused' on reaching trade deal with UK by end of year MORE has said that he expects that there will be about $100 billion in private capital invested in the zones.

Mnuchin, Carson and several other administration officials attended the executive-order signing, as did Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump legal team offers brisk opening defense of president Democrats worry Trump team will cherry-pick withheld documents during defense What to watch for on day 4 of the Senate impeachment trial MORE (R-S.C.) and several local-government officials and religious and business leaders.

The new White House council will aim to streamline and target existing federal programs so that they benefit opportunity zones, examine legislative proposals and potential regulatory reforms, develop reports on ways to encourage investments in distressed communities, and work to ensure that the government can collect the necessary data so that it can measure the results of the opportunity-zone program and governmental actions, the senior White House official said.

"The whole goal is to, one, leverage this private sector economic incentive through opportunity zones, and two, create that public commitment from the federal government to ensure that that economic incentive helps all Americans and would create a robust private-public partnership to revitalize communities," said Ja'Ron Smith, special assistant to the president on legislative affairs.

The opportunity zone program was championed heavily by Scott while the tax law was being written, and the idea has some bipartisan support.

But the program has also faced some scrutiny. The Associated Press on Tuesday reported that Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpOvernight Energy: Study finds 'forever chemicals' in more locations | Trump officials approve Keystone XL pipeline right-of-way | Warren asks banks for climate plans Gore praises Greta Thunberg after meeting: 'Nobody speaks truth to power as she does' Ivanka Trump refuses to criticize Greta Thunberg: 'She's elevated awareness' MORE and Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump to release Israeli-Palestinian peace plan on Tuesday Suspicions cloud Trump's Middle East peace plan Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges MORE, the president's daughter and son-in-law who work at the White House, could end up benefiting financially from the program.

Updated at 3:51 p.m.