Too many American communities have been left behind by widening geographic disparities and increasingly uneven economic growth. We come from different parties and regions, but share the common conviction that all Americans should have access to economic opportunity regardless of their zip code.
Sometimes it feels as though there is nothing our policymakers in Washington can agree upon. But amid the discord affecting our nation’s capital is a glimmer of hope: Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Congressmen Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and Rob Kind (D-WI) have reintroduced legislation that would incentivize the private sector to make long-term investments aimed at improving distressed communities.
The bipartisan legislation, known as the “Investing in Opportunity Act” (IIOA), stems from a harsh reality: although the nation’s economy has improved, not all have benefited equally. According to the Distressed Communities Index, combining seven complementary metrics to present a multidimensional picture of economic distress, an estimated 50.4 million Americans live in economically distressed communities. Many areas continue to linger in recession. A report by the Washington-based Economic Innovation Group found that between 2010 and 2013, the average distressed zip code lost 6.7% of its jobs and 8.3% of its businesses, even as nearby zip codes prospered.
According to ICIC’s latest analysis, inner city residents represent 10% of the population and nearly a quarter of the population living in poverty live in the inner city. Inner cities represent 16% of U.S. unemployment, 22% of U.S. poverty, and 32% of U.S. minority poverty.
Although IIOA also targets investment in rural and suburban areas, the legislation will undoubtedly have a major impact on inner cities if passed.
If passed, the bill would boost inner city investment by:
If it becomes law, IIOA would create a vital new pathway for socially-conscious investors and entrepreneurs to jumpstart economic growth in some of America’s most distressed neighborhoods.
The reintroduction of IIOA is a reminder that not all communities have rebounded from the recession, and creative new approaches are needed if we want to move the needle in chronically high-poverty areas.
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