WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Clinton administration designated 20 poor communities as ``empowerment zones'' Wednesday, which makes the areas eligible for special federal help.

The communities, 15 urban and five rural, will share at least $55 million in federal grants and $2.2 billion in tax-exempt bonds to help shrink unemployment and aid development in communities that are struggling financially, Vice President Al Gore said.

The administration will push Congress to approve an additional $1.6 billion in federal grants to be spread out over 10 years.

``If Congress approves full funding for our new empowerment zones, it will help create and retain about 90,000 jobs and stimulate more than $20 billion in new private and public investment,'' Gore said. ``That's a down payment on extending the American Dream to millions of Americans.''

Urban communities named empowerment zones include Boston; Bridgeton and Vineland, N.J.; Cincinnati; Columbia and Sumter, S.C.; Columbus, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; Gary and East Chicago, Ind.; Huntington, W.V., and Ironton, Ohio; Knoxville, Tenn.; Miami; Minneapolis; New Haven, Conn.; Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va.; Santa Ana, Calif.; East St. Louis, Ill., and St. Louis.

The rural empowerment zones include Cordele, Ga.; Fargo, N.D.; Riverside County, Calif.; Ullin, Ill.; and the Oglala Sioux Reservation in Pine Ridge, S.D.

The 20 communities were chosen from more than 270 applicants based on a scoring system that measured the quality of revitalization plans and private and public commitments to implement the plans.