The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

USDA, LIHEAP, Medical Research, DRA, ARC Budgets Must Stay Strong--We Oppose Proposed Budget Cuts

Posted on March 16, 2017 at 02:59 PM

The Delta Caucus and Economic Equality Caucus partners join many Members of Congress of both parties and concerned citizens in raising deep objections to President Trump’s budget proposal to make massive cuts at USDA and eliminate meritorious programs such as the AmericaCorps National Service, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), which funds many entities such as food banks and meals-on-wheels programs, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority.

We will address these issues at the Economic Equality Caucus conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on May 17-18. Schedule, registration and group hotel information are below at the bottom of this message.

Huge cuts to medical research would be harmful to regions like the Delta that suffer from high levels of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and other health maladies. We need to be investing in ways to find cures and reduce these severe problems, not making short-sighted cuts that will harm this region and the entire country in the long run.

USDA programs, Americorps, and LIHEAP are essential programs for millions of Americans. They should be fully funded, not slashed.

DRA deserves budget increases, not cuts: The DRA has only a relatively tiny budget (by federal government standards) of $28 million to promote economic development in eight states and 252 counties with a population of about 10 million people. Eliminating it would do nothing to curb federal deficit spending but would harm the small-scale but beneficial efforts of this agency.

The ARC is much larger than the DRA and has existed for 52 years and should continue, as should DRA, which is likely to become another success story similar to ARC if it survives to the ripe old age of 52. It is relatively new and was only created at the end of the Clinton administration in late 2000. It makes no sense to abolish these fine regional agencies. We have not agreed with everything the DRA has done (and you could say that about almost all government agencies), but the vast majority of its activities have been clearly beneficial.

These budget cuts would eliminate jobs and harm the economy, while being disproportionately damaging to rural America, which in most cases voted heavily in favor of President Trump and now would be harmed if his budget becomes a reality. As a matter of reality, many in Congress have already indicated that this budget is dead on arrival, but we need to stay vigilant and point out its disturbing flaws.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is tremendously important for rural America, but its nutrition programs are vital for urban areas as well–yet USDA was targeted for cuts of $4.7 billion. With $993 million in cuts not even specified, we can expect many other proposed cuts will be on the way if this budget becomes a reality. USDA’s name is actually a misnomer, because 80% of its funding is for SNAP, school meals and other vital nutrition programs, as well as Rural Development programs.

The Trump budget would eliminate the $498 million USDA Water and Wastewater Disposal Loan and Grant program, which provides rural communities with funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and storm water drainage.

Think about it–as Hunger Free America has argued–this is a tax increase disguised as a budget-cutting measure–because if the USDA Water and Wastewater Disposal Loan and Grant program is abolished, rural communities would either have to do without such these basic necessities or be forced to pay the costs by local tax increases.

Another cut is $95 million from the USDA Rural Business and Cooperative Service, which has the mission of creating rural jobs.

Delta Caucus Director Lee Powell was a Presidential appointee at USDA Rural Development in the Clinton administration, and can testify that its programs promote rural economic development, infrastructure, small business and renewable energy. “It will be harmful to millions of Americans in the Delta, Southwest Border, Appalachia, the Midwest, Native Americans, and other rural areas to make such irrational cuts in these fundamental USDA programs,” Powell said.

The AmeriCorps National Service Program is an exemplary initiative that creates community service jobs while enabling program participants from all economic backgrounds to help pay their way through college.

AmeriCorps has received strong support from Republican leaders like Haley Barbour of Mississippi, President George W. Bush, Sen. Orin Hatch, and Sen. John McCain–so this is hardly a program only endorsed by starry-eyed left-wingers.

According to Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America who has long been a national leader for Americorps, said “AmeriCorps serves urban and suburban communities but is particularly adept at aiding underserved rural areas. Common sense efforts such as this – which create jobs while meeting critical community needs – should be expanded in a bi-partisan manner.”

Cuts to WIC: The Trump budget would take $200 million out of the USDA Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a program which provides nutritional supplements to pregnant woman and children under five. Hunger Free America estimates that WIC has saved more than half a million U.S. children from dying at birth.

We would expect later attacks on the largest of the nutrition safety net programs–SNAP (food stamps) and school meals and other child nutrition programs. All of these proposed cuts must be rejected.

While our mission at the Delta and Economic Equality Caucus is to fight domestic poverty in the USA, we should not forget the impoverished and ignore some exemplary programs that have aided hungry people across the world. The Trump budget proposes to eliminate two programs that were supported by nationally recognized leaders from both parties:

The bi-partisan USDA Dole-McGovern Program was founded by Democratic leader George McGovern and Republican Leader Bob Dole. It has assisted many developing countries to start school meals programs, has won accolades for many years, and until now has received stalwart support from the powers that be. That should not change and is not likely to change.

The Trump budget would also make major cuts in the State Department’s Food for Peace Program, which was founded by Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Food for Peace sends food relief to poor countries suffering from wars or natural disasters. This is a classic example of the kind of program that helps prevent future wars by reducing starvation and preventing the strife that can create opportunities for malicious extremists to wreak havoc.

Food for Peace and the Dole McGovern Program are small and under-funded. Slashing their funds will do nothing to reduce massive deficit spending but will increase the chances of turmoil abroad that can later come home to haunt us.

REGISTRATION, SCHEDULE AND GROUP HOTEL INFO FOR MAY 17-18 ECONOMIC EQUALITY CAUCUS IN WASHINGTON, DC

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Jobs, Health Care, Education, USDA Issues at EEC in Washington, DC, May 17-18, 2017

Posted on March 01, 2017 at 03:53 PM

Please advocate for job creation/infrastructure investments, health care for underserved populations, public education, hunger and nutrition programs at the bipartisan Economic Equality Caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, May 17-18, 2017.

Space is limited so please RSVP as soon as you can by email at LeePowell@delta.comcastbiz.net or phone at (202) 360-6347. Registration information is below in this newsletter.

We are inviting officials of President Trump’s administration, Members of Congress from both parties, and grassroots economic and community development advocates for a dialogue on Capitol Hill. Whatever your views are regarding the Trump administration, come and make your voices heard in our nation’s capital. Key issues include:

The proposed $1 trillion program of investment for infrastructure to create jobs and improve our deteriorating infrastructure in transportation, housing, broadband and other vital systems. This is unusual in today’s contentious political environment in that both parties have pledged support for it, but we have to press them to follow through on the promises in a way that broadly benefits the economy;

Health care: The Affordable Care Act has provided health insurance to millions who never had it before. The ACA can certainly be improved, but if it is to be repealed we need to weigh in about what will replace it.

Education: a strong public education system and affordability for college are essential for a brighter economic future: If you have questions or concerns about what Trump’s controversial Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will do for education in America, come to DC and express support for a strong public education system.

Hunger and nutrition, rural economic development: USDA’s SNAP, school meals, WIC and other hunger safety net programs are vital for millions of Americans every day; agriculture is a major part of the economy still, and the Rural Development programs are vital for housing, small business, and rural infrastructure. Convey to the new USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue your views on these programs.

Diversity/civil rights: We are a diverse grassroots coalition including women, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans, rural America, and we support economic, racial and gender equality. If you are concerned about what the Trump administration might mean for diversity in America, come to DC for the EEC conference and make your voices heard.

Key populations and regions we are joining forces with are the Greater Delta Region from Illinois and Missouri to New Orleans, Appalachia, the Southwest Border, parts of the Midwest, New York, inner cities, and the Mid-Atlantic region of Virginia/Maryland/Washington, DC, which overall is relatively prosperous but also has areas of economic distress. Economic inequality is a national problem today.

TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS NEWSLETTER

I. SCHEDULE

II. REGISTRATION

III. GRASSROOTS PARTNERS

IV. GROUP HOTEL

I. SCHEDULE

HOUSE SESSION: Wednesday evening, May 17, 2017, 4:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. The opening session is at the US House of Representatives Rayburn building, Room 2060.

SENATE SESSION: Thursday morning, May 18, 2017, 8:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.; Senate Russell Building Caucus Room 385

CLOSING SESSION: Thursday afternoon, May 18, 2017, 11:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill (212 E. Capitol)

II. REGISTRATION

You register by sending in the early registration fees.

Early Registration fees for attending both days of the conference are $125 each until April 21, 2017. Those who have paid their annual membership dues will receive a reduction down to $100 each.

GROUP DISCOUNTS:

We will offer registration fee group discounts depending on the size of the group. For a group of five or more attendees the fees will be reduced to $75, and down to $50 for a group of 10.

For a large group there will be a relatively small lump sum. Most people wish to attend most of the conference on both days, but for a small number who can only make one session we will pro-rate the registration fees, (minimum of $25).

Late registration fees: After April 21, 2017, registration fees are increased to $160 to provide an incentive to get the fees in on time.

Space is limited so please RSVP by sending in the registration fees ASAP.

You can pay the registration fees in two ways:

Go to the website and use the PayPal process at the top of the site at www.mdgc.us

OR

Send a check by mail.

Please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

III. GRASSROOTS PARTNERS

Nowadays, we often hear people complain about partisan gridlock in Washington, DC, or express disdain for either one or both of the major parties. Our response is that if you want to guarantee that gridlock and inaction persist, the surest way to get such a poor result is to give up on the democratic process and do nothing. Whatever your views, come to DC and give our elected officials an earful in person.

For this conference the Mid-Atlantic Region is one of the key regions, because although Virginia/Washington, DC/Maryland are relatively prosperous overall, even they have significant pockets of poverty. Economic inequality unfortunately is widespread across the country nowadays. With its dense population and many national organizations with headquarters in this area and, of course, proximity to Capitol Hill, this region has great potential for constructive activism for economic equality.

The Delta Caucus is a founding partner of the national EEC and is joining forces with similarly situated regions and populations across the country to amplify our voices in urging the national powers that be to take more effective action for those who have not shared equally in America’s prosperity and opportunity.

Grassroots participants who have already confirmed:

–Joel Berg, CEO, Hunger Free America, national anti-hunger organization based in New York, a nationally recognized expert on poverty and hunger in America who has often appeared on national news shows like CNN, FOX, ABC, CBS, MSNBC;

–The Housing Assistance Council, a national organization based in Washington, DC, Moises Loza, Executive Director; NAACP officials from the venerable civil rights and justice organization with chapters across the country;

–Michael Curtin, CEO, DC Central Kitchen, a nationally recognized nonprofit working on job training, food and nutrition issues;

–Heifer International, an internationally recognized anti-hunger and poverty organization;

–Nucor Yamato Steel Corp., and Nucor Steel of Arkansas, Blytheville, Arkansas; a world class company that has enlightened corporate policies including high wages, never laying off employees even in recessions, generous training and education benefits, and community outreach;

–Alan Gumbel, workforce development expert based in Memphis, Tennessee; veteran regional advocate for the Greater Delta Region going back to his days as an aide to the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission of the late 1980s, the Clinton administration’s Delta Regional Initiative, and a long-time senior partner of the Delta Grassroots Caucus;

–Millie Atkins, community leader in Monroe, Louisiana, with extensive experience in broadband expansion to underserved areas and education issues;

–The National Congress of American Indians, Jacqueline Pata, President; the largest organization representing the more than 5 million Native Americans in our country;

–Harvey Joe Sanner, president, American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas; veteran advocate for the Greater Delta Region and family farmers;

–Rodney Fisher, Alexandria, Virginia, education policy expert, former aide to then US Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) and several governors of Texas;

–Gary Latanich, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Arkansas State University;

–Walter Tejada, president, Virginia Latino Leaders Council;

–Sen. Barbara Favola (D-VA), distinguished leader on education, health care, women’s issues in northern Virginia,

–Representatives of MAFO and other farm workers’ organizations from Minnesota, Wisconsin and the United Farm Workers.

We are in the process of inviting many other organizations and grassroots leaders and will update the participants as we get closer to the time of the event.

IV. GROUP HOTEL:

We have a group discount rate with the Hilton Garden Inn at Reagan National Airport at $199 for the night of May 17. Please call the hotel at (703) 920-8600 to reserve your room.

The conference is scheduled so that people can save money by only having one hotel night to pay for. You can arrive Wednesday afternoon May 17 and check in and go to the opening session on Capitol Hill starting at 4:30 p.m. Then you can check out on the morning of May 18, store your luggage at the hotel if necessary, and go to the May 18 morning, lunch and early afternoon sessions.

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Economic Equality Caucus, May 17-18 in Washington, DC: Jobs, Health Care, Education, Diversity

Posted on February 20, 2017 at 04:28 PM

The Economic Equality Caucus (EEC), will convene a conference on Capitol Hill on May 17-18, 2017 to have a dialogue with Members of Congress, Trump administration officials, and grassroots advocates about economic equality, job creation, health care, and education for working Americans.

The Delta Caucus is one of the key partners for this conference led by our national affiliate, the Economic Equality Caucus, which will focus on economic inequality across the country, including the Greater Delta Region from southern Illinois and Missouri to New Orleans and east to the Alabama Black Belt, Appalachia, the Southwest Border, the Midwest, Native Americans, the Mid-Atlantic Virginia/Washington, DC/Maryland region, and inner cities such as Baltimore, New York, Memphis, New Orleans and Washington, DC.

Please RSVP by registering (registration information is below) or by replying by phone to (202) 360-6347 or by email at LeePowell@delta.comcastbiz.net

This is bipartisan. We are inviting Members of Congress from both parties, Trump administration officials on key job creation and infrastructure issues, and grassroots economic development and equality advocates from across the country.

Make your voices heard in our nation’s capital: Whatever your beliefs or concerns are, come to our nation’s capital and express your views to the national powers that be. Members of Congress and administration officials are impressed when concerned citizens come to Capitol Hill to urge greater action for economic growth and equality in our country.

Nowadays, we often hear people complain about partisan gridlock in Washington, DC, or express disdain for either one or both of the major parties. Our response is that if you want to guarantee that gridlock and inaction persist, the surest way to get such a poor result is to give up on the democratic process and do nothing. Whatever your views, come to DC and give our elected officials an earful in person.

For this conference the Mid-Atlantic Region is one of the key regions, because although Virginia/Washington, DC/Maryland are relatively prosperous overall, even they have significant pockets of poverty. Economic inequality unfortunately is widespread across the country nowadays. With its dense population and many national organizations with headquarters in this area and, of course, proximity to Capitol Hill, this region has great potential for constructive activism for economic equality.

The Delta Caucus is a founding partner of the national EEC and is joining forces with similarly situated regions and populations across the country to amplify our voices in urging the national powers that be to take more effective action for those who have not shared equally in America’s prosperity and opportunity.

TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS MESSAGE:

I. KEY ISSUES

II. SCHEDULE

III. REGISTRATION

IV. GROUP HOTEL

I. Key issues:

Job creation on a range of issues, in particular support for major investments in transportation, housing and other infrastructure to create jobs and improve our deteriorating infrastructure. Job creation at good wages will be a key issue. We will urge Congress and the Trump administration to follow through on promises made during the campaign to make major investments in infrastructure to create jobs and repair America’s deteriorating infrastructure.

A strong system of public education is essential for improving economic opportunity and equality. Whatever your views are concerning President Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, come to DC and make your voice heard.

Health care: The Affordable Care Act has expanded health insurance to many millions of Americans who never had it before, but even supporters of the ACA acknowledge it needs improvements. If it is to be discarded we want to know what the alternative is.

The hunger safety net including SNAP, school meals, WIC and other hunger and nutrition programs provide a vital safety net and deserve strong funding.

Gender, racial and ethnic diversity: We can’t have a system of economic equality if certain regions and populations always lag behind, such as the Delta, Southwest Border, Appalachia, the Rust Belt, inner cities, Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, women, and impoverished rural areas.

We take a comprehensive approach to economic development and equality and will cover a range of issues. We will select a few of these to prioritize since we can’t cover all these issues, and invite feedback on which three or four of these issues you would most like to see highlighted.

We are a diverse group including women, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans, whites and people of all demographic backgrounds.

II. SCHEDULE

HOUSE SESSION: Wednesday evening, May 17, 2017, 4:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. The opening session is at the US House of Representatives Rayburn building, Room 2060.

SENATE SESSION: Thursday morning, May 18, 2017, 8:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.; Senate meeting room TBD (Senate rules do not allow room reservations until 90 days before an event)

CLOSING SESSION: Thursday afternoon, May 18, 2017, 11:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill, 212 East Capitol St. near the US Supreme Court

III. REGISTRATION

You register by sending in the early registration fees.

Early Registration fees for attending both days of the conference are $125 each until April 21, 2017. Those who have paid their annual membership dues will receive a reduction down to $100 each.

GROUP DISCOUNTS:

We will offer registration fee group discounts depending on the size of the group. For a group of five or more attendees the fees will be reduced to $75, and down to $50 for a group of 10.

For a large group there will be a relatively small lump sum. Most people wish to attend most of the conference on both days, but for a small number who can only make one session we will pro-rate the registration fees, (minimum of $25).

Late registration fees: After April 21, 2017, registration fees are increased to $160 to provide an incentive to get the fees in on time.

Space is limited so please RSVP by sending in the registration fees ASAP.

You can pay the registration fees in two ways:

Go to the website and use the PayPal process at the top of the site at www.mdgc.us

Send a check by mail. Please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

IV. GROUP HOTEL:

We have a group discount rate with the Hilton Garden Inn at Reagan National Airport at $199 for the night of May 17. Please call the hotel at (703) 920-8600 to reserve your room.

We also have some rooms for the night of May 18, although most people only stay one night to reduce costs.

The conference is scheduled so that people can save money by only having one hotel night to pay for. You can arrive Wednesday afternoon May 17 and check in and go to the opening session on Capitol Hill starting at 4:30 p.m. Then you can check out on the morning of May 18, store your luggage at the hotel if necessary, and go to the May 18 morning, lunch and early afternoon sessions.

The conference ends about 2:45 p.m. so you can get a flight back home that evening.

Spring is one of the busiest times of the year for Washington, DC so this is a relatively low rate for a hotel that is a short drive both from our meeting locations on Capitol Hill and to Reagan National Airport.

The deadline for the group hotel is April 17. After that day there may not be any more spaces available and in there are you will not get the discount rate.

For more information, contact Lee Powell, Co-Chair, EEC and Delta Caucus Executive Director (202) 360-6347

Time for a Change in DRA Federal Co-Chair Post, & Recommendations to Prevent Recent Issues from Recurring

Posted on January 25, 2017 at 12:09 PM

As we enter a new administration and new Congress, the Delta Caucus strongly endorses continued growth for the Delta Regional Authority, a small but good agency for which we believe Rep. Rick Crawford, Sen. John Boozman and most Members of Congress as well as Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the region’s governors are doing a great job.

However, the current DRA Federal Co-Chair is an Obama administration appointee who is trying to hang on into the Trump administration, has engaged in ill-advised partisan actions, grossly exaggerated the impact of this small but good agency’s impact, supported sending of substantial parts of the DRA’s limited budget outside of the Delta, and supported the bad practice of adding on a tiny DRA contribution to a massive private sector contribution to add the total amount to their totals in news releases. For all of these reasons, it’s time for a change in the post of DRA Federal Co-Chair.

“Despite the Caucus’ longstanding support for the agency, we don’t rubber-stamp all actions of every DRA political appointee. We have serious policy disagreements with the current DRA Federal Co-Chair, Mr. Chris Masingill, and present four recommendations to prevent recent mistakes from being repeated by future Presidential appointees,” said Kevin Smith of Helena-West Helena, Caucus senior adviser.

“But beyond the fact that we thought he made and continues to make many mistakes in his role at the DRA, it’s a basic reality that each administration needs their own staff in appointed executive branch positions. Someone who opposed the current President’s candidacy in the 2016 election cannot appropriately serve during the Trump administration. It’s time for a change in the DRA post,” Smith said.

The current DRA Co-Chair has made inappropriate partisan statements, such as endorsing Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 in comments in Arkansas’ largest newspaper (Democrat-Gazette) while being identified in his post at the DRA. “He cannot appropriately serve in the Trump administration after having publicly opposed Trump in the election. Many Delta Caucus partners supported Hillary while some supported Mr. Trump, so our point is not that he endorsed Hillary, but that he should not have made any endorsement of any candidate or party. The DRA should be strictly nonpartisan.” said Caucus director Lee Powell.

While it is too early to tell what policies the Trump administration will take regarding economically distressed populations like the Delta and we hope to work with them in a positive way, there are concerns about some of the Cabinet appointees’ right-wing positions on such issues as minimum wages and above all repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, which has been beneficial to many people in the Delta.

Such positions as repeal of the ACA clearly contradict the positions of both former President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton, and as an avowed supporter of those two leaders, it is surprising and illogical that the current DRA Federal Co-Chair would desire to continue working for a President who advocates policies that are so opposed to those of Obama and Clinton. The vast majority of Obama appointees immediately resigned when Trump was inaugurated, and that is what the current DRA Federal Co-Chair should do.

Smith said “Lee Powell and I and most of the other Delta Caucus partners were strongly pro-Hillary Clinton as is our right as private sector citizens in the election, but a government official at the DRA should stay out of partisan politics. So our question is: Why does Mr. Masingill want to continue serving in the Trump administration when he publicly opposed Trump in the campaign? How can he work effectively with Trump administration officials and Republicans in Congress and governors? Has he set a date to leave so as to hasten the Trump administration installing their own appointee? He should have left already like most of the previous administration appointees did, and he should resign now.”

“We need a DRA leader to help urge President Trump to make major investments in the Delta for transportation and other infrastructure as he pledged in his campaign, but we need a true Trump appointee in there to do so,” Smith said.

Key recommendations: In addition to the call for DRA staff to avoid partisan statements, substantial parts of the DRA’s small budget should not be sent outside the heart of the east Arkansas Delta as has happened the last two years; there should be an end to gross exaggerations of this good but small agency’s impact; and the agency should not add on a tiny DRA contribution to massive projects funded by other sources that would have happened without any DRA involvement.

“While most Delta Caucus partners were Hillary supporters, we also have some Trump supporters in our network, and we have had good discussions with them about the need to get a Trump appointee to fill this post. We have confidence that Rep. Rick Crawford and Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) always stay on top of DRA issues, and we feel sure they are working to get a well-qualified appointee approved by the Trump administration in that job as soon as possible,” Powell said.

The DRA is a small agency that does some good projects each year; however, the vastly larger federal departments like USDA, HHS, US DOT, Commerce, etc., have programs of greatest impact on the Delta. The DRA can be a useful supplement to these large-scale programs. By far the most beneficial initiative for the Delta in recent years is the Affordable Care Act, which provided insurance to thousands in the Delta who never had it before. We just need to remember that the DRA is quite small.

Key recommendations to prevent recent mistakes from happening in the future:

• Avoiding partisanship: “All DRA officials should be careful to refrain from any partisan activities or comments, such as an ill-advised comment by Mr. Masingill while being identified in his government job praising Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in 2016, as well as other partisan actions. Delta Caucus partners happen to include many supporters of Hillary Clinton, but it is just not the DRA chair’s role as a government official to make any partisan comments for any party or any candidate,” Smith said.

• “DRA officials should avoid gross exaggerations of this small but good agency’s impact on the still economically distressed Delta, and not try to make inflated claims that it makes a major impact on the regional and the entire state’s economy. The DRA news releases have frequently made these claims when in fact poverty is still quite serious in much of the Delta.

The DRA does some good projects each year, but there’s no point in exaggerating it. These inaccurate claims weaken our ability to advocate for the DRA budget, defend it against cuts, and expand it to the much larger levels of our sister agency, the Appalachian Regional Commission, because some powers that be in Congress say we don’t need more funding if there is already such a major impact,” Powell said.

• The DRA should stop the ill-advised practice of tacking on a relatively tiny DRA contribution in some projects to a massive private sector investment—for example adding $150,000 to a project whose entire cost was $62 million for the North Little Rock Electric Dept., which would have happened without any DRA involvement. The claims that their small budget has caused “more than $2.9 billion” to be invested in the region is erroneous. Economics Professor Emeritus of ASU Garyl Latanich stresses that when the DRA contribution is so small, these projects “would have gone on without any DRA involvement.”

• The DRA should focus its funding in the impoverished east Arkansas Delta rather than scattering them across the state, in some cases in areas that are not located in the Delta: “Last year over half the funding oddly went to Little Rock, two projects in North Little Rock, Yellville in northwest AR hill country; Fairfield Bay; and this year at least $900,000 went to Bull Shoals, Stone County in the northern AR hill country, and to El Dorado, a relatively prosperous community southwest of Little Rock. These communities are just not located in the Delta and it was not the original intent when this agency was created for substantial parts of the funding to go outside the Delta,” said Harvey Joe Sanner.

DRA’s mission is to focus on the east AR Delta:The DRA statutory boundary lines were drawn expansively so that the region would not appear too small, yet the great majority of the 42 AR counties are in east AR; the requirement that 75% of the funding must go to economically distressed counties was intended to steer funding to east AR, and the clear legislative history and intent were that the DRA was created to aid the impoverished heartland of the east Arkansas Delta.

The Delta Caucus partners give high marks to Members of Congress such as Sen. John Boozman, Rep. Rick Crawford, and others in the Arkansas and Delta regional delegation for supporting the DRA budget, defeating attempts to slash its funding or even abolish it. The budget has now been increased to $28 million (of which Arkansas’ share is $3.2 million), which is small but better than the $6 million of the early 2000s or the $12 to $14 million range in recent years.

DRA budget dwarfed by vastly larger ARC: The DRA budget is dwarfed by our sister regional agency, the Appalachian Regional Commission, whose basic economic development budget is 5 times larger at $146 million. Beyond that, for many decades the ARC had $400 million or more each year for the Appalachian Highway Development System. The ARC no longer controls that funding, but the ARC-created highway corridors still gain funds from the Surface Transportation Program. By contrast the DRA has never held a separate highway development major source of funding.

The Delta Caucus appreciates Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s support for the DRA; he serves with the governors of the 8 Delta states on the DRA board. As a statewide official, we know the governor would be pleased when any AR community gets federal funding. However, the DRA Federal Co-Chair has a very different role: he is supposed to make sure the agency remains true to the DRA’s original mission and intent, which was to aid the heart of the east Arkansas impoverished Delta.

Therefore, we place the primary responsibility upon DRA Federal Co-Chair, Mr. Masingill, for what we regard as funding allocations going to places outside the Delta. The Co-Chair not only supported these projects outside the Delta but made public communications touting the agency as helping over this huge area of the state—this is far beyond the scope of this good but small agency. Stretching its small budget that far greatly dilutes its impact on the areas where it is most needed.

DRA Alternate Federal Co-Chair Mike Marshall did a very good job, as did former DRA official Rex Nelson for President Bush. We say this to stress that most Presidential appointees in the DRA’s history have performed their duties admirably.

Delta Caucus partners include Clinton administration appointees Lee Powell and Wilson Golden who were involved in the DRA’s creation. The Caucus later fought for the agency through the lean years when the Bush administration slashed its funding, the arduous battle to get funding closer to the original $30 million (now $28 million) envisaged when President Clinton signed the bill creating the agency into law in late 2000. The key long-term goal is to gain equality with the ARC.

The DRA Arkansas announcements in 2016 included $3.2 million for projects that had a total of $26 million. The DRA release stated that the funding was “primarily” from the DRA SEDAP program. Again, it is good that the DRA contributed to these projects, but they were one of many contributors and gave only about 13% of the total.


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Economic Equality Caucus Set for May 17-18, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC

Posted on January 03, 2017 at 03:37 PM

The Delta Caucus and our national affiliate, the Economic Equality Caucus (EEC), will convene a conference on Capitol Hill on May 17-18, 2017 to have a dialogue with Members of Congress and the new administration of President-Elect Donald Trump about economic development and equality for working Americans.

The focus will be on economically distressed populations across the country, including the Greater Delta Region from southern Illinois and Missouri to New Orleans and east to the Alabama Black Belt, Appalachia, the Southwest Border, the Midwest, Native Americans, the Mid-Atlantic Virginia/Washington, DC/Maryland region, and inner cities such as Baltimore, New York, St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans and Washington, DC.

We are inviting Members of Congress, Trump administration officials on key job creation and infrastructure issues, and grassroots economic development and equality advocates from across the country on key health care, education, nutrition and other vital issues.

The Mid-Atlantic Region is one of the key regions, because we want to emphasize that even areas like Virginia/Washington, DC/Maryland that are relatively prosperous overall still have significant pockets of poverty. Economic inequality unfortunately is widespread across the country nowadays.

The Delta Caucus is a founding partner of the national EEC and is joining forces with similarly situated regions and populations across the country to amplify our voices in urging the national powers that be to take more effective action for those who have not shared equally in America’s prosperity and opportunity.

The Greater Delta will have an important role due to the unfortunately still economically distressed nature of many areas in the eight-state Delta region.

Job creation at good wages will be a key issue. We will urge Congress and the Trump administration to follow through on promises made during the campaign to make major investments in infrastructure to create jobs and repair America’s deteriorating infrastructure.

Health care, hunger and nutrition, housing, energy and education will be key issues as well; we take a comprehensive approach to economic development and equality and will cover a range of issues. We will select a few of these to prioritize since we can’t cover all these issues, and invite feedback on which three or four of these issues you would most like to see highlighted. Reply by email to leepowell@delta.comcastbiz.net

We are a diverse group including women, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans, whites and people of all demographic backgrounds.

SCHEDULE

HOUSE SESSION: Wednesday evening, May 17, 2017, 4:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. The opening session is at the US House of Representatives Rayburn building, Room 2060.

SENATE SESSION: Thursday morning, May 18, 2017, 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.; Senate meeting room TBD (Senate rules do not allow room reservations until 90 days before an event)

CLOSING SESSION: Thursday afternoon, May 18, 2017, noon to 2:45 p.m., Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill

Space is limited so please RSVP early by sending in the registration fees ASAP either by PayPal on the website at www.mdgc.us or mailing a check to the address below.

For more information contact Lee Powell, EEC Co-Chair and Delta Caucus Executive Director (202) 360-6347 or by email at LeePowell@delta.comcastbiz.net

REGISTRATION

You register by sending in the early registration fees.

Early Registration fees are $125 each until April 21, 2017. Those who have paid their annual membership dues will receive a reduction down to $100 each.

Late registration fees: After April 21, 2017, registration fees are increased to $160 to provide an incentive to get the fees in on time.

Space is limited so please RSVP by sending in the registration fees ASAP.

You can pay the registration fees in two ways:

Go to the website and use the PayPal process at the top of the site at www.mdgc.us

Send a check by mail. Please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

For more information, contact Lee Powell, Co-Chair, EEC and Delta Caucus Executive Director (202) 360-6347