Supporters of the EB-5 program went into June 24, 2021, quite optimistic. Optimistic that the Senate would unanimously vote in favor of passing Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) proposed S.831, a bill that would see the EB-5 Program renewed for another five years and ensure its integrity measures. It didn’t go as planned.
One senator’s objection effectively stopped the bill from passing ahead of its June 30 expiration date. The program seemingly died on the Senate floor that day, ahead of the Senate’s July 4 recess.
What went wrong? Perhaps it’s best to rewind and revisit the program’s origins and desired outcomes.
The EB-5 Regional Center Program is a gateway for qualified foreign investors who, after passing security checks and various other required criteria, seek to gain legal, permanent residency in the United States, so long as they are investing $1.8 million in a project that also creates or preserves at least 10 full-time jobs. Created in 1990, the program has been a reliable job-creator, project-creator, economy-builder and community-stabilizer. It famously played a big role in getting the nation back to work after the 2008 recession and has built-in incentives to place emphasis on areas of the country that are struggling with unemployment, both urban and rural, by lowering the price of investment from $1.8 million to $900,000.
The word “bipartisan” is callously tossed around often enough in political rhetoric that we almost forget what it really means — but S.831 was truly a beacon of bipartisanship. The bill had and continues to have massive support from EB-5 stakeholders, especially ones that were looking forward to the bill’s plans to improve the program’s oversight and accountability.
The program’s expiration has also made it difficult for those investors who have already made investments into their chosen communities. Now, they’re going to have to wait for conditional green cards along with the certainty of a long-term authorization.
But the program lapsed, so does any of this matter? Yes: The bill still exists within Congress, in a pending state. It still sees healthy industry support along with that much sought-after bipartisan congressional sponsorship. There are more than 25 representatives who sponsored or co-sponsored H.R.2901, the House companion bill to S.831. There’s no shortage of support and confidence in the program, which has done so much good for so many communities in need of assistance — particularly after suffering the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program is not dead; it’s just been dealt a heavy setback. It still has powerful entities fighting for its survival both inside and outside of Congress. But there’s plenty of things average citizens and industry stakeholders can do to support the program’s renewed existence: They can contact their regional centers to be sure they are supporting pending bills, get in touch with their congressional representatives and get in touch with trade associations that support the program and work toward its continued existence, like Invest in the USA.
The program still has so much more to offer. It has so many more jobs to create, projects to build and communities to bolster. The EB-5 community should not take this time to mourn but rather, rally around the program and see that it is restored. There’s still time to not only stop the nation from losing out on billions in investments but also give millions of jobs to communities that need them now more than ever.
Aaron Grau, executive director of Invest in the USA (IIUSA), is a former majority counsel on the U.S. Senate Health Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, where he developed Senate hearings and negotiated and drafted several pieces of federal legislation and was part of the Senate team that created the Workforce Investment Act.
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