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.

Recommendations for Biden-Harris Transition on Economic Opportunity, Health & Diversity in the Delta & Similar Regions

Posted on November 13, 2020 at 01:59 PM


From: Delta Grassroots Caucus and Economic Equality Caucus

To: Biden-Harris Transition Team

Subject: Policies for Economic Opportunity, Race and Gender Diversity in the Biden Administration

The Delta Caucus partners support the Biden-Harris Transition Team’s focus on hunger, poverty and diversity issues as we fight the ongoing pandemic/recession. Many of our recommendations are similar to what the Biden-Harris team is planning. This is in the bipartisan spirit of working with the new administration to promote economic opportunity.

The Delta Grassroots Caucus/Economic Equality Caucus recommends this short list of key priorities for economic recovery, health, and diversity for economically distressed populations in predominantly rural regions like the Greater Mississippi Delta, Appalachia, Northern Border, Great Plains, Southeast Crescent, and Southwest Border. We are grassroots advocates for economic equality and diversity across the country. We endorse the strong concerns and policy positions for lower income Americans of President-Elect Biden and Vice-President Elect Harris.

1) Economic Recovery and Workforce Development

Job creation and retention at good wages: this includes strong funding and support for Small Business Administration, Labor, USDA Rural Development small business programs, and other major federal programs, New Markets tax credit, initiatives like rural Empowerment Zones and a reformed version of Opportunity Zones to provide tax incentives for investing in low-income areas, Community Development Financial Institutions and other progressive economic initiatives.

Strong unemployment benefits, economic stimulus and relief to promote economic recovery see vulnerable populations for a strong economic recovery through the Covid-19/recession. Education and workforce investment–Strong K-12 funding and support for public education, including greater opportunities for virtual learning and policies for aiding lower income families to gain access to the Internet. Expanded aid to cut the exorbitant costs for higher education that are blocking the career paths of so many people nowadays and/or saddling them with huge debt;

Environmentally friendly agriculture focused on small to medium-sized farmers, ending tariffs that invite retaliation against farm exports, and opening up new trade markets across the globe.

Rural economic opportunity package for $100 billion: We endorse a policy similar to that proposed by then US Sen. Kamala Harris earlier this year for a $100 billion package for rural America, a SNAP for Kids Act that would raise food assistance for school-age children by $42 a month, expand funding for the Health Foods Financing Initiative that improves access to nutritious produce, especially in rural areas where grocery stores are in many cases sparse.

Increased funding for Delta Regional Authority, Appalachian Regional Commission, Southeast Crescentm Northern Border Regional Commission, Southwest Border Regional Commission, Great Plains, Denali and other commissions serving economically distressed regions. All of these commissions are under-funded or in some cases have been authorized but not funded and exist only on paper. These regions need special aid due to their chronic poverty levels and they need to be supported and funded.

2) Health Care and Nutrition in the Pandemic

Support for Obamacare and health care for those without adequate insurance, and strong policies for mask-wearing, social distancing and broad distribution of vaccines when they are available–this is always crucial for a region that has such high rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other maladies, but even moreso now. Of course in a diverse region like the Delta we are doubly concerned about the disproportionately high virus rates for minorities;

USDA SNAP, WIC, school meals and other nutrition programs: with regions like the Delta, Appalachia, Southwest Border, Southeast Crescent and Rust Belt suffering skyrocketing food insecurity in the country, we are calling for a 15% increase in SNAP funding, strong support for the pandemic EBT program, rolling back of the Trump policies making it harder for people to gain SNAP and other benefits they are eligible for, and making WIC an entitlement so that it finally gets solid funding over the long term; We strongly endorse the policy recommendations for hunger, poverty and diversity presented by CEO Joel Berg of Hunger Free America.

Increase the income cutoff for SNAP eligibility from the current 130% of the federal poverty line to 200% of the federal poverty line. End the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the improved nutritional standards for school meals and other food aid championed by former First Lady Michelle Obama and previous Congresses.

USDA should extend the DSNAP program that allows flexibility in the context of disasters to the current pandemic.

3) Racial and Gender Equity

Women and minority issues–women are hit worst by job losses in the pandemic recession, and minorities are hit worst in the number of virus cases. Moreover, low-income people tend to not have as strong access to affordable quality health care. We must have equal pay for women doing the same work as men.

Restoring, protecting and expanding upon the Voting Rights Act and other gains of the civil rights movement, major increases in funding and stature of the Minority Business Development Agency, equal access and opportunity in federal procurement and employment across the federal government, are among the top priorities. The CDFI, New Markets Tax Credit and other initiatives cited in the jobs/economic equality section will provide major benefit for African Americans and Latinos who have lower income and job opportunity.

Police reform, combating racial violence and bigotry—We need to acknowledge that most police officers are non-violent enforcers of the law. This truth was tragically driven home recently when an exemplary officer, Kevin Collins—who happened to be African American—was killed while engaging in criminal investigation in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

While we appreciate the work of the great majority of the police, we do have a recurring dilemma of police violence against blacks. We support reforms such as banning chokeholds and similarly dangerous actions, requiring officers to restrain other officers when they see them being abusive, emphasis on scaling down and defusing rather than escalating tense situations, firing, criminal prosecution where appropriate and other stern punishments for officers who engage in violence or racial slurs, creating a national registry for police officers with abusive records, and last but not least, we must assure higher pay for law enforcement officers. They need to be well paid if we are going to attract high quality officers.

4) Infrastructure and Climate Change

Infrastructure expansion program to create jobs and repair our deteriorating infrastructure: we need a major investment in housing, broadband, transportation and other infrastructure in US Dept. of Transportation, USDA Rural Development housing, utilities, and other infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development for struggling inner city areas across the country.

Climate change and investments in biofuels, solar, wind and renewable energy: Many economically distressed regions like the Delta, Southwest Border and Appalachia have great potential for producing biofuels, and the nation as a whole must make great investments in solar, wind, and other renewable energy to transition away from fossil fuels that cause health problems and climate change in the form of much greater numbers of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other natural disasters to which the Greater Delta Region suffers from more than most regions. In addition to the vital environmental impact, renewable energy has tremendous economic potential for job creation over the long term. This is a national and international problem and we have to make this transition now.

Environmentally friendly buildings and housing: We enthusiastically endorse President-Elect Biden’s plan to upgrade 4 million buildings and weatherize 2 million homes over 4 years, creating at least 1 million good-paying jobs with the option of union membership; spur the building retrofit and efficient-appliance manufacturing supply chain by funding direct cash rebates and low-cost financing to upgrade and electrify home appliances and install more efficient windows, which will cut residential energy bills. and in housing spurring the construction of 1.5 million sustainable homes and housing units.

USDA Rural Housing Service programs and other initiatives promoting home-ownership should be expanded: We call for substantial tax credits to help families buy their first homes and increase funding for repairs of affordable rental housing, as well as construction of new properties through USDA Rural Housing Service Multi-Family Direct Loans and Single Family Direct Loans Programs. Redlining and other discriminatory practices in the housing market should be abolished.