Panel + Q&A (*Maximum 4 Panelists)

Opportunity Zones in a post-COVID-19 Socially Just World

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The Opportunity Zones (OZ) tax incentive was part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a bi-partisan effort that was enacted by Congress in 2017. Over 8,700 distressed communities with low median income and high unemployment were certified as OZs, and investors were given a tax incentive intended to spur economic development in those areas. There was more than 2 trillion dollars of unrealized capital gains in 2018. Over 200 federal programs have been aligned with OZ efforts, offering priority to grants and loans.

Initial press focused on projects in areas that experienced limited distress compared to the vast majority of Qualified Opportunity Zones. Though in some communities we see a quickly developing pipeline of projects, not all of those projects have high community impact. Though there are various firms who have come out with proposed Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) measurement indices, there is still both public and legislative pushback challenging how both Qualified Opportunity Zones and Qualified Opportunity Funds track community impact. Work is required on the ground to listen to community stakeholders about their needs in order to create a ground-up asset-based strategy that connects to place-based priorities.

It is often the translation of such listening that results in a programmatic approach that gives local priority to minority-owned businesses, community facilities, and addressing quality of life improvements. The OZ framework raises the profile of many ‘forgotten’ communities, tangibly improving social equity and reducing inequality.

Confirmed Panelists


Angeline Johnson (FUSE Fellow in Wichita, KS): Bio

Stacy Cumberbatch (FUSE Fellow in Riverside County, CA): Bio

Clair Whitmer (FUSE Fellow in Fresno, CA): Bio

Gil Keinan (FUSE Fellow in San Bernardino County, CA): Bio

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