Trump creates council to boost ‘opportunity zones’ in depressed areas

President Trump created a new White House council on Wednesday to help economically depressed areas, including the “opportunity zones” created by last year’s tax reform legislation.

Trump signed an executive order creating the Opportunity and Revitalization Council alongside a group including Democratic activist Van Jones and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. It will be led byHousing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

He called the council a “very big thing” and said it would feature “efforts across the entire federal government to deliver jobs, investment and growth [in] the communities that need it the most,” according to a pool report.

Trump said the council would help “impoverished neighborhoods that have been ignored by Washington in years past.”

The announcement received relatively little attention. Unlike most events featuring Trump at the White House, it was not broadcast on cable news networks, C-SPAN, or on the White House’s website.

A statement from the White House described an expansive mission for the council, including efforts to “streamline existing regulations, optimize federal resources, stimulate economic opportunity and mobility … expand high-quality educational opportunities, develop and rehabilitate quality housing stock” and “prevent crime in economically distressed communities.”

The opportunity zones created by last year’s tax reform allow businesses to gain tax breaks in distressed areas. State governments propose areas that are then certified by the IRS.

News reports have noted that Trump and his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner have significant landholdings and might benefit from the opportunity zones.

At the council kickoff, Scott praised Trump, with the senator touting Trump’s “strong advocacy for criminal justice reform,” referring to the pending First Step Act, which has divided Senate Republicans. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., agreed to allow a floor vote after Trump publicly urged him to do so.

“Without any question, without your leadership, our Senate would not have made a decision to take it up in 2018. So when it passes, the credit starts at the White House and with President Donald Trump,” Scott said.