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Press Release

U.S. Department of Commerce Invests $1.2 Million to Stoke Post Disaster Business and Entrepreneurial Activity in Puerto Rico Opportunity Zone

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced that the Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is awarding a $1.2 million grant to Operation Hope, Inc., of Atlanta, Georgia, to provide up to 300 technical assistance workshops in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to help small businesses and entrepreneurs grow and succeed following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. The project, to be located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act designated Opportunity Zone, will be matched with nearly $1.8 million in local funds and will be undertaken in partnership with Banco Popular.

“Even two years later, the President Trump is still working diligently every day to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s economy after the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “Providing small businesses and budding entrepreneurs in disaster-impacted Puerto Rico with the technical assistance they need to succeed will help the island’s economy recover and become stronger than ever before.”

“I thank President Trump and Secretary Wilbur Ross for these new 300 workshops that will be held in Puerto Rico for small and medium businesses providing technical assistance for business expansion, tourism and agriculture after the hurricane,” said Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón. “I urge everyone to take advantage of this opportunity and get back to normal after the hurricane.”

The workshops will focus on helping the Commonwealth’s sole proprietors, mom and pop/family businesses, micro-businesses, and other innovative entrepreneurs. The participating small and micro businesses will be drawn from tourism/hospitality, small scale manufacturing, agriculture, commerce, and traditional business service industries. Technical assistance will focus on continuity activities such as business expansion, new business opportunity building, preparedness, and resilience. Operation HOPE is working to disrupt poverty and empower inclusion for low and moderate-income youth and adults. A key component of Operation HOPE’s delivery of this technical assistance is its Digital Entrepreneur Training Program (ETP), designed to enable these underserved and developing small businesses to expand their markets through online transactions.

This project is funded under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (PL 115-123) (PDF), in which Congress appropriated to EDA $600 million in additional Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) Program (PDF) funds for disaster relief and recovery as a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, wildfires and other calendar year 2017 natural disasters under the Stafford Act.

The funding announced today goes to a designated Opportunity Zone, created by President Donald J. Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to spur economic development by giving tax incentives to investors in economically-distressed communities nationwide. In June 2019, EDA added Opportunity Zones as an Investment Priority, which increases the number of catalytic Opportunity Zone-related projects that EDA can fund to fuel greater public investment in these areas. To learn more about the Opportunity Zone program, see the Treasury Department resources page here. To learn more about the Department’s work in Opportunity Zones, read our blog post.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration (www.eda.gov)
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth.

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