Treasury watchdog to investigate Trump opportunity zone program

Treasury watchdog to investigate Trump opportunity zone program
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The Treasury Department’s internal watchdog is planning to investigate the "opportunity zones" program after three Democratic lawmakers called for a closer look at the initiative, acting Treasury Inspector General Richard Delmar told NBC News

Delmar’s announcement came a few months after Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerStakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff It's as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process Booker introduces bill to create 'DemocracyCorps' for elections MORE (D-N.J.), Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Rep. Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindCoronavirus culture war over reopening economy hits Capitol Hill How the GOP hopes to overcome steep odds in House battle The Hill's Campaign Report: 200 days to Election Day 2020 MORE (D-Wis.) sent him a letter requesting an investigation after news reports indicated that friends of the administration were benefiting from the program. The acting inspector general told NBC News that the report is expected to be completed by early spring. 

The opportunity zone program was enacted with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump anti-reg push likely to end up in court Biden set to make risky economic argument against Trump Hillicon Valley: Tech companies lead way on WFH forever | States and counties plead for cybersecurity assistance | Trump weighing anti-conservative bias panel MORE’s tax bill in 2017 and was designed to give tax incentives to those who invest in designated lower income areas. 

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But The New York Times reported last year that Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinFive questions about the next COVID-19 relief package Senate Republicans call on DOJ to investigate Planned Parenthood loans The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December MORE told the department to grant Storey County, Nevada, an opportunity zone status, a decision that came after he spent time with the co-owner of a company in that county.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealHouse Democrats' bill would create a second round of direct coronavirus relief payments Lawmakers question why dead people are getting coronavirus checks Congress, Treasury tussle over IRS guidance on .2T COVID-19 package MORE (D-Mass.) and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Tech companies lead way on WFH forever | States and counties plead for cybersecurity assistance | Trump weighing anti-conservative bias panel House to consider amendment blocking warrantless web browsing surveillance COVID-19 increases importance of implementing reforms to organ donation system MORE (D-Ore.) also sent a letter to Mnuchin in November asking for more information on why that county was selected after the department had previously decided it was ineligible. 

The Treasury Department has pushed back on the story, saying officials only reconsidered the opportunity zone designation for the county at the request of local officials and that Mnuchin did not know of the investments in the county.

Other Democrats sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking the office to look into a number of aspects of the program, including analysis on how the opportunity zones were decided.

The department and the IRS also released a draft form to gather information about investments made under the program as they faced scrutiny in October. NBC reported that as of January, $7 billion in investments were made in the program, according to data collected by accounting firm Novogradac.

The department did not immediately return a request for comment.