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Organizations in Kentucky receive over $18 million in EDA Grants during 2019

State Government

By Metric Media News Service | Feb 24, 2020


Organizations in Kentucky received $18,244,000 from the US Economic Development Administration in relation to the opportunity zone tax law created by The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, according to the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

The largest grant awarded in the state went to the Estill County Board of Education in the amount of $8,700,000 on July 24, 2019. The U.S. Economic Development Adminstration offered the following description of this project:

"The EDA investment funds the construction of a new Area Technical Center (ATC) educational building for Estill County schools, located in an Opportunity Zone. The ATC will offer support and education that provides programming for highly skilled workers to find permanent placement in regional growing industries of tourism, manufacturing, adult education, and healthcare. The new resources will address the region's decline in coal production after the restructure and removal of two local coal corporations, which will result in the creation and retention of jobs."

Opportunity zones are governor-selected areas in economically distressed communities where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. An opportunity zone fund allows wealthy investors to put off paying capital gains on sales of certain assets while also allowing their investments to grow tax free as long as 90% of the money is invested in one of these opportunity zones. If an investor leaves his money in an opportunity zone fund for 7 or more years, his or her total capital gains is reduced by 15%. Furthermore, if they hold the investment for 10 years, all of the gains realized from that investment are tax free. For instance, if an individual has a $1 million gain on a stock sale, this investor can invest that into an opportunity zone fund within 6 months of the sale and avoid paying capital gains tax on that amount for that year. If they keep that money in the fund for seven years, they will pay capital gains on $850,000 as opposed to the original million. Along with that, any appreciation in the investment is received tax free so long as money is held in the fund for 10 years.

Because opportunity zones were selected by each state’s governor as opposed to being done by a computer algorithm, allegations of favoritism have long plagued the program. Most notably, a non-economic distressed community in Nevada was designated an opportunity zone after Treasury Secretary Mnuchin seemed to intervene allowing his friend and former ex-con Michael Milken to potentially profit from some investments he has in that area. Both men have denied any wrongdoing and while Mnuchin has said he was actively involved in the process, he didn’t know his friend had any investments in the area.

There have been several proposals sent by both Democrats and Republicans to try to reform the program. The program designates entire census blocks as opportunity zones and there are no provisions in the law that mandate that any of the money spent has to help low income individuals.

The capital gains provision is currently set to expire on December 31, 2026, meaning anything invested into an opportunity zone fund at this point will not make it to that seven year threshold allowing investors to reduce that amount on their capital gains sale by 15%, but it will still allow them to reduce their amount by 10% as long as they keep their money held for five years.

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