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Treasury's internal watchdog is probing Trump administration Opportunity Zone program

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Image: Senior Advisor to the President of the United States Jared Kushner
Senior Advisor to the President of the United States Jared Kushner on Nov. 30, 2018.   -  
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WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department's internal watchdog has opened an inquiry into the department's Opportunity Zone program after an October request from three Democratic members of Congress, Acting Treasury Inspector General Richard Delmar told NBC News.

In late 2018, NBC News reportedthat Trump friend Richard LeFrak and the family interests of Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, among others, could benefit from possible projects in designated opportunity zones. The New York Times published a similar report in 2019.

The program, which Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., added to the 2017 tax bill, was meant to spur growth in underserved areas, and prompted the designation of 8,800 lower income census tracts as opportunity zones where investors could reap significant tax benefits.

In October 2019, Booker and Democratic Reps. Ron Kind and Emanuel Cleaver sent a letter to the Treasury Department's Office of Inspector General, asking how those zones were chosen. "The underlying legislation, the Investing in Opportunity Act, was intended to support the growth and revitalization of our nation's most economically underserved communities," said the letter. "It was not the intent of Congress for this tax incentive to be used to enrich political supporters or personal friends of senior administration officials, as recent reports indicate."

Acting Inspector General Delmar says he expects his office's work to be completed by early spring.

NBC Newsand other news organizations have reported on how the program that was created to help low-income communities has been benefiting higher income areas.

As of January 2020, opportunity zone investments had reached over $7 billion, according to the accounting firm Novogradac, which has been tracking the investments.

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