A New Way to Help Lift Communities Up: The Investing in Opportunity Act

Working to address poverty throughout our nation has been an important part of my work since joining the United States Senate. My goal has been and continues to be to positively impact lives with a message of hope and opportunity. I believe that every American, regardless of their background, race or socioeconomic status, should have the opportunity to succeed — because every single one of us has immense God-given potential and the ability to contribute our gifts to the greater good. That’s why I launched my Opportunity Agenda in January 2014.

Many have asked me why I have chosen this as my work, and, frankly, for me, it’s personal. I grew up in a poor, single parent household in North Charleston; at one point my mom, brother and I had to move in with my grandparents, where we all shared a bedroom. Those years were full of love, but also full of challenges — like flunking my freshman year of high school. Eventually, through the power of education, entrepreneurship and faith, I was able to get my life back on track. My experience drives both my conservative principles and the policy goals I hope to achieve in the United States Senate.

Today, too many Americans are living in distressed communities. These neighborhoods, towns and cities, no matter where they are, have some things in common. They have a high number of residents without a high school degree, too many unemployed adults and a high percentage of folks living in poverty. In South Carolina, some 30 percent of our population — 1.4 million people — live in a distressed zip code, and nationally, the number is more than 50 million people.

These are families, Americans, who are looking to build a better future just like the rest of us, but too often do not have the opportunity to do so. I wanted to find a way to help the people living in these impoverished communities, and do so with a conservative policy solution. As a former small business owner, I have learned that growing the economy and increasing access to education are two powerful ways to transform communities and change lives. My Opportunity Agenda already includes the CHOICE Act and LEAP Act, and today, I am glad to add another plank.

I am excited to work with my friends Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Congressmen Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) and Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI) to introduce the Investing in Opportunity Act. This innovative approach, which will streamline a specific part of our tax code in order to encourage dollars to be reinvested in areas that need it most, while creating a framework for bringing in new capital. It’s my hope that this will create new entrepreneurs and enterprises in economically distressed areas of the country.

The Investing in Opportunity Act opens the door to private capital in the following ways:

Removes barriers ‎to investment through a temporary capital gains deferral in exchange for reinvesting in distressed communities

● Encourages investors from across the nation to pool resources through newly-created “Opportunity Funds” — established specifically for making investments in distressed communities

Concentrates capital by establishing “Opportunity Zones” — geographically targeted low-income areas that will be designated by governors

● Provides incentives for investors to make long-term commitments to these communities

I will continue to look for ways, like this, to create good paying jobs and spur our country’s economic growth. When we work together to address poverty, we can stop a vicious cycle that has been seen by far too many people across the country.