HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut cities and towns are being encouraged to apply for a new federal community development program to help low-income areas.

Each governor must submit a plan to the federal government for designating tracts as Opportunity Zones. Interested communities must return their completed applications to the state Department of Economic and Community Development by March 16.

Qualified tracts must have a poverty rate of at least 20 percent of the median income that does not exceed 80 percent of the area median income.

Under the program, participating investors will be allowed to re-invest unrealized capital gains into these special zones by pooling money with other investors through Opportunity Funds.

DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith says the tool will "help engage a new set of investors" in communities that need capital infusions.