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.

May 17-18 Economic Equality Caucus in DC, & Policy Recommendations Memorandum

Posted on May 15, 2017 at 06:51 PM

UPDATED MAY 28, 2017

We had a jam-packed agenda for the May 17-18 Economic Equality Caucus (EEC)in Washington, DC with Members of Congress, grassroots advocates and major policy organizations. We include below a policy recommendations memorandum and the agenda for the conference.

The Delta Caucus and our national affiliate, the Economic Equality Caucus, circulated the memo to Members of Congress and other officials at the recent May 17-18 Washington, DC conference.

Economic Opportunity and Equality in America

Recommendations from the Legislative Action Committee

We do not expect all of our colleagues to agree with all of these policy recommendations, but after consulting with many partners across the country we believe that most of these recommendations have widespread support. We have a duty to come up with recommendations of our own for Congress, the Trump administration, state and local leaders.

May 26, 2017

Major populations of our country lag far behind the rest of America economically, such as the Greater Delta Region, Appalachia, the Southwest Border, parts of the Midwest, Native Americans, and inner cities.

Poverty rates for women and children across the country are far higher than for the rest of the population, and neglect of our veterans is a national shame. There are deep concerns about Trump administration proposed budget cuts to hunger and nutrition, health care, education, job creation, infrastructure programs among many leaders in both parties. We would strongly advise against major cuts to vital programs that have gained bipartisan support for many years.

While the Virginia/Washington, DC/Maryland region is for the most part relatively prosperous as of today, our coalition expresses grave concerns about the disproportionately harmful impact the Trump budget cuts would have on this region.

Not only does this area face the same cuts to vital safety net programs as the rest of the country, but the huge federal government job layoffs are especially harmful to this region, the threat to eliminate federal funding for the Chesapeake Bay restoration program is detrimental environmentally and economically, and Trump administration civil rights policies pose special risks for this region with its highly diverse population having many African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and other minorities.

A bipartisan initiative that will not increase federal spending but channel funding where it is most needed: We would like to single out our endorsement of the bipartisan “10-20-30” plan championed by Congressman James Clyburn (D-South Carolina) and Congressman Hal Rogers (R-Kentucky) for all federal programs related to economic development. This requires 10 percent of federal funding to persistent poverty local areas where 20% of the population has lived in poverty for over 30 years. This would not add any federal spending but just assure that those who need it most get their fair share of federal investments.

A. Job creation/retention at living wage levels:

• Supporting and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, which has taken millions out of poverty;

• Expanding the Community Reinvestment Act and Community Development Financial Institutions;

• Invigorating small business job growth, the most dynamic engine for economic growth—especially at SBA and similar programs such as the Economic Development Administration;

• Investing in transportation and other critical infrastructure including housing and broadband to create jobs and improve our deteriorating highways, bridges and access to the Internet;

• Increasing the federal minimum wage. America’s largest employer, Wal-Mart, raised its wages in 2015, and many other states and local areas did so in 2016. Data overwhelmingly shows that when many states set their minimum wages above the federal level, there is little or no impact as far as their losing jobs to lower wage states, while paying workers better reduces turnover and generates higher productivity. Higher wages are not only just, but are sound economically.

B. Health care, nutrition and education:

• Women and children have uniquely high poverty rates, which must be reduced by requiring equal pay for equal work, health and nutrition programs for women and children, greater stress on reducing domestic violence, teen pregnancy and pre-natal programs, and on policies promoting expanded professional opportunities in business, elected office, nonprofits and the professions for women;

• Supporting increased funding for Education/workforce development, including relief for the exorbitant costs of student loans for college;

• Full funding for SNAP, school meals, WIC and other major nutrition programs that are the vital safety net against hunger and prevent health care problems,

• Fully funding USDA Rural Development programs in housing, water and other infrastructure, broadband access, renewable energy, small business for rural areas;

• Preserving the basic gains of the Affordable Care Act, with leeway for the modified versions such as Arkansas’ innovative program and other innovative state initiatives;

• Fully funding AmeriCorps to further fight poverty and boost opportunity, aid education, help seniors, work in disaster relief, and enhance public lands. AmeriCorps participants perform this service while earning payments for job training, college, home ownership, or starting a business.

C. Economic equality for economically distressed regions:

• Expanding key initiatives based on the Clinton administration’s New Markets Initiative. Creating an improved version of the New Markets Tax Credit to give tax incentives for investing in economically distressed areas. Simplifying the complex application process is essential.

• Eliminating or greatly reducing the local matching grant requirements for the poorest counties, which do not even have the funds for the relatively small local funding requirement and thus miss out on larger amounts of funding. Funding for regional commissions aiding economically distressed areas such as the Appalachian Regional Commission and Delta Regional Authority should be preserved and given larger levels of funding–the DRA especially has historically been severely under-funded. A starting point for recommendation is that the poorest 100 counties pay no local matching grant, the next 100 a greatly reduced amount; the next poorest 100 counties pay a lesser reduced amount for local matching requirements;

• Providing Veterans with strong safety net programs for job training, physical and mental health care, substance abuse treatment, and housing for the huge number of veterans who served our country bravely in two major recent wars and many other areas across the globe.

• Trade: Job training and other programs for workers losing their jobs due to changing trade patterns, as well as labor and environmental safeguards for free trade agreements.

• Opening up trade in food and other exports to Cuba. The failed embargo has been in place for a half century. This is sound national policy in weakening the Cuban dictatorship by exposing their people to the benefits of the free enterprise system, while opening up new markets for American products;

• We supported the dislocated worker program to help those thrown out of work due to changing patterns of international trade. Any trade agreements must include strong labor, environmental, and intellectual property safeguards,

D. Implementing tax reform for lower to middle income working families,

• Creating new fees on financial transactions for wealthy Wall Street speculators.

• Reducing income taxes for those in the income brackets from $18,000 to $75,000, graduated for the number in each family.

• Removing huge tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in the top 1 percent. Income inequality is extreme and spiraling out of control.

• Reversing tax inequity: the wealthiest 8 Americans increased their wealth by $87 billion in 2014, which is more money than America spent on SNAP (food stamps) that year.

• Returning the tax code to its structure of the 1970s, or at a minimum to where it stood at the end of the Clinton administration. If the tax code of the 1970s had continued, as of 2016 the wealthiest 1% would have had $1 trillion less and working families would have $1 trillion more.

• Doubling the child care tax credit.

Voting rights:

Economic equality is advanced if everybody has equal rights to participate in the democratic process. We support the right to vote for all Americans regardless of income, racial or ethnic group, gender, or other status. This includes voting rights for Hispanics and a legal path to citizenship.

While employment and economic growth are on the rebound, this expanded tax revenue will afford investments in more economic equality for hard-working families in lower to middle ranges. Sound job growth investments are self-sustaining financially due to the increases in tax revenue they generate.


OPENING SESSION: Wednesday late afternoon, May 17 at 4:30 p.m., House Rayburn building Room 2060, session continues until about 7:15 p.m.

Senate session, Thursday morning May 18, 8:30 a.m., Senate Russell Building Room 385, session continues until about 10:30 a.m.

THURSDAY MAY 18 LUNCHEON AND EARLY AFTERNOON–at 11 a.m. we start serving lunch and getting seated, and the speakers begin promptly at 11:30 a.m., Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill near Supreme Court (212 E. Capitol), session continues to about 2:30 p.m.

Have your voices heard, regardless of what your point of view is: We had a wide range of points of view represented at this conference. If you are disturbed about President Trump’s proposals to cut vital programs for job creation, USDA, health care, education, and other major initiatives, then contact Congress and the Trump administration and have your voices heard.

We heard from opponents of the Trump administration policies as well as speakers who are supportive of the Trump administration, and we want to have a dialogue with them all regardless of their points of view.

At this conference we paid tribute to the memory of the late Sam Scruggs, Executive Director of the great nonprofit, Mississippi County Arkansas Economic Opportunity Commission in northeast Arkansas, who passed away early in 2017 after a lifetime of distinguished leadership for the community and economic progress of the Greater Delta Region

Broad scope encompassing most of the major regions across the country: At this conference we heard from representatives of major regions across the country, especially from populations and regions threatened either by current economic conditions or by proposed budget cuts from the Trump administration, including the Southwest, Appalachia, Greater Delta region, parts of the Midwest, Native Americans, and the Washington, DC/Virginia/Maryland region that is particularly threatened by the administration’s budget proposals.

Special concerns for the Virginia/DC/MD region by the proposed Trump administration budget cuts: The Virginia/Washington, DC/Maryland region is currently much more prosperous than the other regions cited, but the Trump budget is especially disturbing for this region, because the vital cuts to safety net programs are compounded by huge federal government job layoffs that would disproportionately harm this region, by the threat to eliminate federal funds for the Chesapeake Bay restoration program, and the highly diverse population in this region creates concerns from the Trump administration policies regarding civil rights/diversity.

We want to examine these controversial budget proposals in a thoughtful, factual way.

We would also encourage President Trump and Congress to follow through on their promises for a major investment program in transportation, housing, broadband and other infrastructure, which is sorely needed. If they follow through regarding infrastructure, our partners will strongly support them, provided that it is a real infrastructure program and not just more rhetoric.

Economic Equality Caucus Conference

“Jobs, Health Care, Infrastructure, Diversity”

May 17-18, 2017, Washington, DC


“Best Practices in Community and Economic Development”

MODERATORS–Lee Powell, Economic Equality Caucus Co-Chair and Director of the Delta Grassroots Caucus, Washington, DC region; and Millie Atkins, Economic Equality Caucus Co-Chair and community leader from Monroe, Louisiana

4:45 p.m. –Randy Henderson, Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas, Blytheville Arkansas

5 P.M. TO 5:15 P.M.–Ilene Jacobs, Director of Litigation, Advocacy & Training, California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. (state-wide organization in California)


  1. Giev Kashkooli, United Farm Workers; national official based in Washington, DC; Organization for farm workers across the country–this is the organization founded by Cesar Chavez)

  2. Katrin Sirje Kark, Program Officer, Rural Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC); focusing on LISC’s work in Appalachia

  3. Stephen Sugg, government relations manager, national Housing Assistance Council or another representative from HAC, a major national anti-poverty organization active in the Southwest Border, Delta, Midwest, Appalachia and other regions

  4. Cornel Martin, CEO, Delta Queen Steamboat Company, New Orleans (promoting bill to allow Delta Queen to travel the Mississippi River and its tributaries once again


Introduction of Rep. Crawford by Harvey Joe Sanner, President, American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas, Des Arc, Arkansas, and senior Delta Caucus agriculture policy adviser.

  1. Alan Gumbel, President, Gumbel & Associates, Memphis, Tennessee, workforce development consultant; long-time Delta grassroots leader including work with Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission 1988-90, the Clinton administration Delta Regional Initiative; and the Delta Grassroots Caucus

  2. Warwick Sabin, Senior Director, US Programs of Winrock International, national nonprofit; Mr. Sabin is a state Representative in Arkansas


“Hunger, Nutrition, Rural Development Infrastructure and USDA Programs”

1.Jensyn Hallett, Heifer International US Domestic Programs in Arkansas and Appalachia

  1. Patty Barker, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance

  2. Shannon Maynard, Executive Director, Congressional Hunger Center, bipartisan Congressional office devoted to developing hunger and nutrition policy experts and advocacy on nutrition issues

  3. Duke Storen, Senior Director of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign

  4. Natalie Jayroe, CEO, Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana, Louisiana



  1. Michael Wilson, Director of Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) Maryland organization, Maryland Hunger Solutions, Baltimore Maryland


“The Trump Budget Cuts and Their Impact Nationally as Well as on the Virginia/DC/Maryland Region”

Begin serving lunch at 11 a.m.

11:30 A.M.–Kimberly Adams, teacher and former President, Fairfax Virginia Education Association, Democratic Candidate for Congress, 10th District of Virginia

11:40 a.m.–Dan Helmer, 10th District Congressional candidate (other candidates Jennifer Wexton and US Rep. Barbara Comstock were invited)

Kevin Hickerson, Virginia Education Association, President, Fairfax Education Association

NOON to 12:20–Joel Berg, CEO, Hunger Free America–national foundation based in New York, former Clinton administration Presidential appointee, nationally recognized economic equality expert. Joel Berg will have copies available for signing of his nationally recognized new book, America, We Need to Talk, about political and economic issues in America and how all of us need to take responsibility and action to solve them.

12:20 to 12:30–Sen. Barbara Favola, Virginia state senator from Arlington, northern Virginia

12:30 to 12:40–Jennifer Allen, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia

12:40 to 12:50 p.m. Walter Tejada, President, Virginia Latino Leaders Council


1:30 p.m. to 1:40 p.m.– Edsel Brown, Maryland NAACP Economic Development Chairman

1:40 p.m. to 1:50 p.m.–Mike Town, Executive Director, Virginia League of Conservation Voters

1:50 p.m. to 2 p.m.–. Michael Curtin, CEO, DC Central Kitchen, nationally recognized nonprofit based in Washington, DC

2 p.m. to 2:10 p.m.– Lisa Oelfke, health care expert with the state of Maryland with direct experience implementing the Affordabe Care Act

2:10 p.m. to 2:20 p.m.–Nicole Brown, CEO, Carter Enterprise Solutions, Maryland minority businesswoman, addressing Trump administration’s proposed cuts to programs providing incentives for minority small business

2:20 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.–Closing remarks–Rodney Fisher, Education policy expert, Alexandria, Virginia, former aide to US Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and four Commissioners of Education in Texas

Sponsors for the Economic Equality Caucus Conference

May 17-18, 2017, Washington, DC

Tribute to the late, great Sam Scruggs

At this conference we are paying tribute to the memory of the late Sam Scruggs, Executive Director of the great nonprofit, Mississippi County Arkansas Economic Opportunity Commission in northeast Arkansas, who passed away early in 2017 after a lifetime of distinguished leadership for the community and economic progress of the Greater Delta Region

Lead Sponsor

Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas

Major Co-Sponsors

Heifer International

Mississippi County AR Economic Opportunity Commission, Blytheville, Arkansas


Kay Goss, author, educator, Associate Director of FEMA for President Clinton, Emergency Manager

Sikeston, Missouri, Regional Chamber of Commerce

Wilson Golden, Board Member of the Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi, Presidential appointee in the Clinton administration, now based in Georgia

American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas

First State Bank & Trust, Caruthersville, Missouri

Writing Our World Publishing, LLC

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas

EEC Grassroots Partners

Last but not least, we would like to thank the literally hundreds of grassroots partners across the country for their many contributions of registration fees, annual membership dues or other voluntary donations in the amounts of $100, $75, $50 and $25. As a grassroots private sector coalition, we need to have a diversified financial base with large numbers of small contributions, and we could not do our work without these numerous contributions.