Cummings, Tlaib Introduce Legislation to Eradicate Lead Poisoning in Opportunity Zones

July 25, 2019
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (July 25, 2019) – Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (MD-07) and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) introduced the Opportunity Zone Lead Remediation Impact Act of 2019 to eradicate lead poisoning in Census tracks designated as an Opportunity Zone.

Opportunity Zones were created as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to provide tax incentives for investment in underserved areas.  Currently, there is no mandate for investments to be made to improve the health and wellbeing of the residents within the Opportunity Zone.

“The Opportunity Zone program brought a wonderful chance for many disinvested communities to receive the economic support needed to lift their poorest residents out of poverty and into the middle class,” said Congressman Cummings.  “However, the program did not provide any guidelines to ensure investments made within Opportunity Zones provided for better health outcomes for their residents.  Our legislation changes that and would ensure a positive impact on the overall health of residents by eradicating lead poisoning in Opportunity Zones.”

“I am proud to introduce this bill with Congressman Cummings.  Lead exposure is a crisis in our country.  We must put an end to allowing those who reap profits due to tax benefits without protecting the public health of our communities.  Those who invest in Opportunity Zones stand to gain a lot in terms of development in these areas, they should welcome the opportunity to increase the well-being of those in these communities.  I represent a large portion of Wayne County where lead poisoning remains a health crisis of deep concern.  As people look to invest in Opportunity Zones, they should be held accountable to improving the quality of life for residents,” said Congresswoman Tlaib.

Under the bill, no residential property invested in Opportunity Zones constructed before 1978 shall be "substantially improved" unless investors fund lead-based paint poisoning and prevention efforts and a complete remediation occurs.  Tax incentives will not be applied unless these investments "substantially improve" the structure.  For investments that do not target residential structures, a small percent of the assets of the investment will go toward the remediation of lead in schools and childcare facilities within the same Opportunity Zone.

The Treasury Department designated qualified census tracts that are eligible for Opportunity Zone tax incentives after receiving recommendations from governors.  Census tracts designated as Opportunity Zones generally have a poverty rate of 20 percent.  Currently, 42 Census tracts are designated as Opportunity Zones in Baltimore. Nationwide, there are over 8,700 census tracks designated as Opportunity Zones.