Former Treasury secretary Robert E. Rubin cleared up some of the mystery about what he'll do next, announcing yesterday that he has become chairman of an organization that provides money and advice to groups rebuilding distressed communities throughout the country.

Rubin, who has been mulling career opportunities since he resigned July 2, will bring substantial new visibility and fund-raising power to the Local Initiatives Support Corp., the largest support group for the nation's hundreds of community development corporations.

LISC distributed about $600 million to community groups last year as programs to improve housing, education and job training, officials said. LISC is funded through loans and grants from banks, corporations, foundations, local and state jurisdictions, and the federal government.

While Rubin won international renown as Treasury secretary for his steely management of the global economy, the laconic Wall Streeter was also known in Washington for his passionate advocacy of government and market-based aid to low- and moderate-income Americans.

"This country will fall far short of its economic potential unless it deals effectively with the issues of distressed communities," Rubin said to reporters yesterday.

And by the way, this won't be Rubin's full-time job. The former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs & Co. said he plans to reenter the financial world, though he hasn't decided where or when. "I would like to remain involved in the public debate around the issues of the global economy," he said. "I don't think you can be usefully engaged in the issues unless you're engaged in a hands-on way."

CAPTION: Robert Rubin, in his former role, testifies before Congress.