• The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) created two new categories of bonds that support local economic development: Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds (RZEDB) and Recovery Zone Facility Bonds (RZFB).
• The Commonwealth of Massachusetts received allocations totaling $556 million across the two programs. The allocation for Economic Development Bonds is $222 million and $334 million for Facility Bonds.
What are these bonds and how do they work?
• These bonds allow private entities and local governments to borrow funds for eligible projects at lower borrowing costs based on federal tax incentives. These bonds are not direct grants or appropriations like some stimulus programs. There are two types of these bonds (RZ Economic Development Bonds and RZ Facility Bonds), as described below.
• RZ Economic Development Bonds are taxable bonds which allow municipalities to obtain financing at lower borrowing costs because the Treasury Department pays the municipality a direct payment subsidy equal to 45 percent of the coupon interest on the bonds.
• RZ Facility Bonds are traditional tax-exempt bonds which have lower interest rates because the interest is tax-exempt to the investors for Federal tax purposes.
What can these bonds be used for?
• The RZ Economic Development Bonds can be used by governmental entities to finance activities that promote development or economic activity within a designated recovery zone. Such activities may include capital investments in public projects, public infrastructure projects, and for job training and education, as it relates to economic development.
• The RZ Facility bonds can be used by private businesses for depreciable capital projects (e.g., buildings and equipment) for original use in active businesses in recovery zones. These bonds cannot be used for multi-family housing.
• The Commonwealth will accept rolling applications for both programs and will prioritize the applications based on readiness, economic impact, and the potential for private investment in the project.
• The Treasury Department's guidance gives counties and large cities that receive volume cap allocations discretion to use those allocations or to reallocate it to the state for use by eligible projects.
• The Commonwealth will make every effort to commit county allocations as set forth by the Treasury. On March 31, 2010, the Commonwealth will begin to reallocate any unauthorized volume cap based on demand.
How are bond allocations distributed?
• The Commonwealth will administer a rolling application process for both programs within the non-active counties of Berkshire, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire, Middlesex, and Worcester.
• In active counties and cities with a population of 100,000 or more, those counties and cities will establish a process by which to distribute the county or city allocation. The active counties are Barnstable, Bristol, Dukes, Nantucket, Norfolk, Plymouth and Suffolk. These counties may elect to waive their allocation to the state for distribution as well.
Why did my county or large city get this amount of money?
• The statute requires making the allocations based on relative employment declines in 2008. The employment data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Treasury provided the local numbers to make this program as easy as possible for state and local governments. Treasury had no discretion in the allocations.
How does the money get to the counties?
• The county or city issues debt at a low interest rate in the form of bond. For RZ
Economic Development Bonds, the bonds would have a taxable interest rate and the Treasury Department would pay the locality a direct payment subsidy for 45% of the interest. For RZ Facility Bonds, the bonds would have a lower interest rate because the interest would be tax-exempt to the investors.
What are "recovery zones"?
• These bonds can only be used in designated recovery zones. A recovery zone is an area designated by a state, county or large city as having significant poverty, unemployment, rate of home foreclosures, or general distress.
• The Treasury guidance indicates that state and local governments that receive volume cap allocations may designate recovery zones in any reasonable manner as they determine in good faith in their discretion.
• The Commonwealth has designated all Economic Target Areas as recovery zones, and the Secretary of Housing & Economic Development will have discretion to designate additional recovery zones.
• Those wishing to use a Recovery Zone Bond for projects that are currently not located within a designated Recovery Zone are encouraged to contact Erica Kreuter at 617-788-3631 to discuss the project.
What entities are eligible to be the "issuers" of recovery zone bonds?
• The Treasury guidance provides very broad flexibility on who is eligible to issue recovery zone bonds. Eligible issuers include states, counties, cities, and conduit authorities authorized to issue bonds "on behalf of" states and political subdivisions, such as MassDevelopment. Recovery zone bonds may be issued for a single project or in combined bond issues with loans for various projects.
Is there a deadline on the use of the bonds?
• Bonds must be issued before January 1, 2011. Any allocations that are not issued by that date will expire under the federal "use it or lose it" policy.
Can unused bond allocations be "waived" for use by others?
• The statute allows a county or large city to "waive" any portion of a bond volume cap allocation received for RZ Bonds. The Treasury guidance provides that, upon such a waiver, the state is authorized to reallocate the waived volume cap in any reasonable manner as it determines in good faith.