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.

Support the EZ/RC/EC Coalition's Work Fighting Poverty and Promoting Growth

Posted on September 01, 2008 at 12:05 PM

The Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus strongly supports the work of the the Empowerment Zone/Renewal Community/Enterprise Community Coalition, a group that is urging Congress to enact legislation for economic development incentives to address unemployment and poverty while promoting economic growth. We have a number of partners from the Delta Grassroots Caucus who are members of the EZ/RC/EC Coalition, and we encourage everybody to sign on to the following resolution of this coalition, send it to your Congressional representatives and urge them to act upon it.

The Delta Grassroots Caucus agrees with this coalition about the vital economic development work promoted by such initiatives as Empowerment Zones, Renewal Communities, Enterprise Communities, and the New Market Tax Credit.

Resolution of the EZ/RC/EC Coalition

We urge Congress to enact legislation to refine and extend the economic development incentives addressing joblessness and poverty, and to spur growth. Specifically, we support bipartisan legislation proposed by Senators Lincoln (D-AR) and Snowe (R-ME) and Representatives Artur Davis (D-AL) and Alexander (R-LA). These bills, respectively S. 1627 and H.R. 2578, would refine and extend development and job incentives for empowerment zones (EZs), renewal communities (RCs) and remaining rural enterprise communities (ECs). The designation period for the EZs and the RCs runs through 2009, while the ECs expire at the end of 2008.

There is a serious need for action in 2008 to either extend these programs this year, or at the very least signal Congress’ intent and interest in the refinements and longer term extensions, to ensure these programs continue to actively and effectively operate into 2009.

The need for action on this legislation is the result of several factors:

· First, these tax provisions for EZs and RCs will expire at the end of 2009, but administrative funding for some of these programs could be cut this year as local communities that often fund these organizations consider whether to reduce budgets and staffing in light of the anticipated 2009 sunset.

· Second, while the programs have succeeded in attracting economic activity into communities that face economic challenges, there are improvements that can make the program even more effective. In that regard a coalition of empowerment zones, renewal communities and enterprise communities has joined together to draw on their shared experience and develop a set of reforms and refinements to help these programs achieve their intended objectives - increasing job opportunities for residents of areas that continue to face significant poverty and joblessness.

· Third, the EC programs sunset in 2008, requiring action this year to extend them and offer them some modest tax incentives so that they do not lapse.

We support the package of refinements and an extension of these programs as embodied in S. 1627 and H.R. 2578, which was developed in collaboration with the EZ/RC/EC Coalition. We would urge the Congress to take steps toward enacting this package in the next several months to ensure that the zones and communities are not forced to begin to cut their operations and efforts in response to the anticipated sunsets in 2008 for ECs and 2009 for EZs and RCs, and to provide the enhancements suggested by our local communities.



Below is a list of the high priority refinements for S. 1627 and H.R. 2578. These priorities are based on the assumption that we can obtain an interim extension through 2010 in this session-Fall 2008. This enhances visibility for the bills and would send a positive signal to the sites that adoption is possible in the 111th Congress. More importantly it would extend the ECs which will sunset this December.

  1. Safe harbors for the EZ bonds as relief from the 35% residency rule for qualifying businesses;
  2. Carryover provisions for RC CRD allocations as relief from the loss of unallocated amounts at calendar year end;
  3. Financing in lieu of benefits for anchor businesses as a means of capitalizing/monetizing wage credits for upfront financing;
  4. Bond pool for the rural ECs as a means of providing ECs with access to meaningful amounts of bond financing for economic development projects–$200 million in both S. 1627 and H.R. 2578 would be $20 million or amount TBD during the interim extension;
  5. Allowances for the expansion of zones and communities-discretionary upon Secretary’s certification that the expansion furthers the plan upon which the zone or community was designated;
  6. Removal of the 35% rule (poverty rate requirement) pertaining to the central business district allowing all areas within a jurisdiction to be designated subject to the general area, population, and poverty rate conditions in the statute;
  7. Create a pool to provide additional tax exempt bonding authority ($20 million or amount TBD) for those EZ’s that have used their allocation, allocated competitively among the EZs by HUD

We all recall that the late Robert Avant, a great leader for the Delta region who passed away a few weeks ago, was for many years the head of the the North Delta Mississippi Enterprise Community. We urge everybody to continue his work and that of many other grassroots leaders in supporting Empowerment Zones, Renewal Communities and Enterprise Communities.

Here are some of the individuals and organizations working in the Delta Regional Authority area who are active in supporting the EZ/RC/EC Coalition:

  • Alabama Department of Economic and Community Development, Montgomery, AL;
  • Alexander County Manager, Cairo, IL;
  • Central Mississippi Planning and Development Commission, Jackson, MS [Renewal Community];
  • The Downtown Partnership [Empowerment Zone], Little Rock, AR;
  • Kisatchie-Delata Regional Planning &Development District, Alexandria, LA;
  • City of Memphis [Renewal Community], Memphis, TN;
  • City of New Orleans, LA [Renewal Community];
  • Northeast Louisiana Economic Alliance [Renewal Communities], Ferriday, LA;
  • Southernmost Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone, Mounds , IL;
  • Beatrice Forniss, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Montgomery, AL
  • Eyona Scott Mitchell, Pulaski County Empowerment Zone, Little Rock , AR
  • Donna Raynalds, Southernmost Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone, Mounds, IL
  • Tana Trichel, Northern and Central Louisiana Renewal Communities, Ferriday, LA

Carl Friend, who is based in Oklahoma City, coordinates the work of the EZRCEC Coalition, which will be meeting with Members of Congress in Washington, DC on Sept. 15-17, 2008 on these issues.

Please join us in supporting the work of the EZ/RC/EC Coalition in support of economic development in the Greater Delta Region and across the country. Thanks–Lee Riley Powell, MDGC (202) 360-6347