Community Development:

The Federal Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Community Program

T-RCED-98-27: Published: Oct 28, 1997. Publicly Released: Oct 28, 1997.

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Judy A. England Joseph
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Community (EZ/EC) program, focusing on: (1) the status of the program's implementation in the six urban empowerment zones, which are located along the east coast and in the mid-west regions of the United States; (2) the factors that program participants believe have either helped or hindered efforts to carry out the program; and (3) the plans for evaluating the program.

GAO noted that: (1) all six of the urban EZs had met the criteria defined in the program's authorizing legislation, developed a strategic plan, signed an agreement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and their respective states for implementing the program, signed an agreement with their states for obtaining funds, drafted performance benchmarks, and established a governance structure; (2) however, the EZs differed in their geographic and demographic characteristics, reflecting the selection criteria in the authorizing legislation; (3) many officials involved in implementing the program generally agreed on factors that had either helped or hindered their efforts; (4) for example, factors identified as helping the program's implementation included community representation within the governance structures and enhanced communication among stakeholders; (5) similarly, factors identified as hindering the program's implementation included preexisting relationships among EZ stakeholders and pressure for quick results; (6) from the beginning, the Congress and HUD made evaluation plans an integral part of the EZ program by requiring each community to identify in its strategic plan the baselines, methods, and benchmarks for measuring the success of its plan; and (7) however, the measures being used generally describe the amount of work that will be produced (outputs) rather than the results that are anticipated (outcomes).

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