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.

Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance's Constructive Work in Promoting Nutrition (Summary of 2023 Impact)

Posted on June 25, 2024 at 12:07 PM

The Delta Caucus would like to recognize the achievements of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance with this summary of their 2023 impact from Lance Whitney of the Alliance, who has spoken at several Delta Caucus conferences over the years. Thanks–Lee Powell, Delta Caucus

ARKANSAS HUNGER RELIEF ALLIANCE 2023 IMPACT

DID YOU KNOW: The Alliance cultivates gardens on 15+ acres across Arkansas.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) team answered 12,331 calls in 2023, a 6% increase over 2022.

Alliance applications resulted in 62,764 meal equivalent and a $1.7 million boost to local economies.

ARKANSAS GLEANING PROJECT– Over 1 million pounds of food grown & gleaned in Arkansas!

772 SNAP Applications Taken in 2023

SOURCED over 4 million pounds of food, providing 3.5+ million meals.

DISTRIBUTED $37,300 in emergency gift cards to Arkansans in need. ADVOCATED to eliminate reduced-price meal copay, providing 49,000 Arkansas students access to no-cost breakfast & lunch.

  • $56,250 in stipends for classes, equipment and transportation assistance.

94.5% of every dollar donated goes straight to our mission and vision. The program is to increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption of patients diagnosed with obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Participants are offered nutrition education to build confidence in preparing healthy, low-cost meals.

We implemented the inaugural ARKANSAS FRUIT & VEGETABLE PRESCRIPTION program funded by a federal USDA grant in partnership with Baptist Health and UAMS. This accomplished key goals:

$771,868 AWARDED TO HUNGER RELIEF ORGANIZATIONS IN 2023.

496 VOLUNTEERS gave 5,448 hours

ADVOCACY Every member is an advocate. This year we connected with members of Arkansas’s Congressional delegation and the majority of the Arkansas Legislature through Serving Up Solutions, Lobby Day, and other advocacy efforts in D.C. and across the state.

We pushed for an increase in SNAP asset limits and advocated for the elimination of the reduced price co-pay for Arkansas families. The Farm Bill was a priority this year. The bill, vital for SNAP, also funds The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) that provides commodities to food banks, and the National School Lunch Program.

Please Urge Your US House and Senate Members to Reject Cuts to the SNAP Program

Posted on June 07, 2024 at 12:17 PM

Last month the House Agriculture Committee advanced a Farm Bill proposal that would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, cut $30 billion in SNAP funding.

The Delta Grassroots Caucus totally opposes this proposal, which would take away vital nutrition assistance from tens of millions of food insecure children, working people, veterans, people with disabilities, and older Americans.

Markets for farmers: The SNAP program also provides markets for our farmers who make the Greater Delta Region states some of the greatest agricultural producers in the world.

Constructive economic impact: Moreover, while it is primarily of course the largest hunger safety net, it does help the economy because for every dollar spent by SNAP it generates over $1.50 in economic activity.

We recently had a Zoom meeting with 40 nonprofit executives, local elected officials, community minded-business leaders, and universities and colleges in the Delta and there was a strong consensus in favor of preserving SNAP funding.​

The Senate version does not have these large cuts and is far superior to the House version.

Please contact your Senate and especially your House members and urge them to preserve SNAP funding. This is one of the fundamental programs for health and the economy in our region and nation.

Please reject any Farm Bill that cuts SNAP funding! Thank you. Lee Powell, Delta Caucus (202) 360-6347

Statement on Key Water Issues from Illinois Municipal League Executive Director, Brad Cole

Posted on June 05, 2024 at 02:37 PM

This is the first in a series of presentations we will be sending out over the next several weeks from presenters at the Mat 30-31, 2024 Delta Caucus Zoom meeting.

This is a statement about water policy from Brad Cole, Executive Director of the Illinois Municipal League. He has been a stalwart Delta advocate since he worked with Rhonda Vinson on the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission in the late 1980s to 1990. This focuses on Illinois but water issues are vital across the entire region. Southern Illinois, of course, is an integral part of the region. Thanks–Lee Powell, Delta Caucus

Illinois Municipal League Advocacy Update: Water Policy

Water quality standards and regulations are important public health policies put in place to ensure that drinking water is safe and free of contaminants. Today, prevalent policy discussions regarding water quality regulations typically focus on lead and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) water contamination levels.

In Illinois, water suppliers are in the final stages of collecting a final material inventory of their service lines, and are in the beginning stages of replacing the lead in their systems. Lead service line identification and replacement is an expensive and time-consuming process, but in Illinois, it is well underway.

Looming federal regulations, regarding both lead and PFAS, could, however, drastically change the requirements and increase the financial burden placed on Illinois water suppliers, many of which are owned and operated by municipalities. The Illinois Municipal League (IML) has been at the forefront of conversations regarding lead and PFAS regulations at both the state and federal level. IML advocates for policy that will protect public health, while simultaneously setting realistic standards and timelines for water suppliers to meet.

In 2021, Governor JB Pritzker signed the Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act (Act) into law. The Act requires owners or operators of community water supplies to develop and maintain a complete material inventory of lead service lines and to implement a comprehensive plan for the replacement of those lines according to defined timelines decided by the number of lead service lines identified in the material inventory.

Community water suppliers were to complete and submit their final material inventory and initial replacement plan to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) by April 15, 2024 unless approved for an extension. The inventory must report the composition of all service lines in the water distribution system.

Under current Illinois law, beginning on April 24, 2027, community water suppliers will have between 15 and 50 years to complete replacement depending on the amount of lead service lines identified in the system. Community water suppliers will have the ability to request an extension of up to 20% of the original replacement timeline, which must be approved by IEPA.

IEPA has not yet compiled all of the 2023 inventory reports, which were due April 15. However, based on the most recent reports posted to their website, of the nearly 4 million service lines identified, just over 640,000 are lead and approximately 661,000 are made up of unknown material.

A 2023 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) report estimates that Illinois has more than one million lead service lines, which is more per capita than any other state in the country. Presently, over 2.5 million service lines have been identified as not lead.

The Lead Service Line Replacement Advisory Board (Board), in its report of recommendations delivered to the Governor and the General Assembly in June 2023, identified two main factors (technical and financial) driving lead service line replacement. The Board highlights key technical challenges – like establishing an accurate inventory, collaborating with property owners and other water suppliers and ensuring a sufficient work force – that will impact community water supplies’ ability to timely and adequately comply with the Act. The Board also notes that Illinois is not currently positioned to finance total lead replacement.

Because many municipalities own or operate a community water supply, IML has a special interest in the progress of lead service line identification and replacement. On March 15, 2024, IML sent a survey to all 1,786 community water supplies in Illinois. The purpose of the survey was to identify common challenges community water suppliers have experienced while implementing replacement, as well as to track statewide progress. IML received 422 survey submissions.

IML has not yet performed an in-depth analysis of the survey results; however, 145 survey participants provided an estimated cost of replacement and the estimated amount of funding received from outside programs (such as federal and state grant programs, loans, local funding methods, etc.).

Based on participant responses, the funding provided from outside programs has currently only covered 4.5% of the estimated total cost of replacement reported in the survey, which totaled nearly $2.2 billion [As a reminder, this does not reflect the total statewide cost of replacement, and only reflects a total of the 145 estimates reported to IML via survey].

To put this in perspective, IEPA has estimated that the cost of total lead service line replacement in the State of Illinois will range between $5.8 billion and $10 billion. Absent direct state or federal funding, community water suppliers are responsible for paying the costs associated with the replacement of lead service lines within their water distribution systems. The Act allows community water suppliers to require property owners to pay for replacement of the private portion of the service line if the community water supplier is utilizing its own funds.

IML continues to advocate for increased funding to support replacement efforts, as well as extended compliance timelines to alleviate financial pressure on water suppliers and in turn their customers.

On November 30, 2023, the United States EPA announced proposed Lead and Copper Rule Improvements (LCRI), which would require the vast majority of community water suppliers in the United States to replace lead service lines within 10 years. Proposed LCRI require community water suppliers to provide USEPA with an initial inventory of their lead service lines by October 16, 2024, with the completion of lead service line replacement by 2034. USEPA has also proposed additional improvements to protect public health, like a lower lead action level and improved sampling protocols utilized by water systems.

On December 15, 2023, IML submitted formal comments to USEPA regarding the impact the proposed LCRI would have on community water supplies in Illinois, and on January 16, 2024, I [IML Chief Executive Officer Brad Cole] testified in a USEPA virtual public hearing to share verbal comments about the proposed LCRI. In the submitted formal comments, IML requests USEPA provide a full exemption from future LCRI rulemaking to states that already have lead service line replacement requirements in place, and specifically an exemption for the State of Illinois.

The timeline in the proposed LCRI would have a significant impact on Illinois’ current lead service line replacement mandate. Under the proposed LCRI, the vast majority of lead service lines would be required to be replaced by 2034, nearly a full decade before some of Illinois’ smallest communities are required to complete replacement under state law.

The 10-year timeline for replacement proposed in LCRI is unrealistic and not feasible. Even with unlimited financial resources, which is not the reality for most communities, community water supplies would not be able to complete replacement under the timeline in the proposed LCRI due to workforce shortages.

Additionally, on April 10, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) issued the final National Primary Drinking Water Regulation regarding six PFAS. The regulation sets enforceable maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for six PFAS. The final rule requires public water systems to complete the initial monitoring for PFAS by 2027, followed by ongoing monitoring for compliance. Water systems are also required to provide the public with information regarding the level of PFAS in their drinking water starting in 2027. By 2029, water systems must implement solutions to reduce PFAS if monitoring shows PFAS in drinking water exceeding the MCLs.

On May 24, IML sent a letter to the Illinois Congressional Delegation regarding a statutory protection for water systems from liability under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) for PFAS to help ensure polluters pay for PFAS cleanup, not the public. The letter asks members of the delegation to support S. 1430, the Water Systems PFAS Liability Protection Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Cynthia Lummis, in order to protect water system customers from being held financially liable for PFAS regulations. The designation of PFAS as hazardous substances under CERCLA means that water systems that passively receive these substances into their systems due to an upstream polluter depositing the chemicals into their water supplies could face CERCLA cleanup liability.

It is critical that Congress moves quickly to ensure that water systems and their customers are not unfairly held financially liable for PFAS contamination.

IML has created dedicated fact sheets about both lead and PFAS regulation, available at iml.org/factsheets, and has a dedicated webpage, iml.org/PFAS, which is regularly updated with PFAS regulation information. IML continues to be a leading voice, at both the state and federal levels, advocating for policies that prioritize public health while alleviating the financial pressure placed on water systems and their customers.

BRAD COLE, Executive Director of the Illinois Municipal League

Latest Draft of Delta Caucus Agenda for May 30-31, 2024 Zoom Meeting

Posted on May 16, 2024 at 12:43 PM

Agenda

Delta Grassroots Caucus Zoom Meeting

May 30-31, 2024

NOTE: All times are Central Time.

The speaking times should be fairly close to what is listed, but we have to be flexible so there might be a few minutes difference as to when you speak. Of course, it’s not exactly to the minute listed.

OPENING SESSION—Thursday, May 30, 2024, 5:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. (Central Time)

5:30 p.m. to 6:05 p.m.–The Delta Regional Initiative—an Overview from the late 1980s to the Present

Lee Powell, Delta Caucus Executive Director, former Clinton administration Presidential appointee, one of the managers of the Delta Regional Initiative with Wilson Golden and the late Al Eisenberg, originally from Arkansas now based in Washington, DC area

Wilson Golden, distinguished attorney, former Clinton administration Presidential appointee, Mississippi native

Mike Marshall, banker and former Mayor of Sikeston, Missouri, former Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority

6:05 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.–Health, Hunger and Nutrition

Joel Berg, CEO, Hunger Free America

Pat Van Burkleo, Feeding Louisiana

Sylvia Blain, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance

Bo Ryall, Arkansas Hospitals Association

Mayor Tomeka Butler, Eudora, Arkansas

Friday, May 31, 2024—9 a.m. to about noon Central time

9 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.–Speakers from several major organizations in the Greater Delta

9 a.m. to 9:10–Ralph Brown, Southern Bancorp Community Partners

9:11-9:21–Keesa Smith, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families

9:22-9:32–Joyvin Benton, King Foundation

9:32—9:44–Brad Cole, Municipal League of Illinois

9:45—9:55 a.m.–Clint O’Neal, Arkansas Economic Development Commission

10:15 to 10:25 a.m.–Elizabeth Rooks, Rooks Mediation Services

10;15 a.m. to 10. 45 a.m.–Diversity in the Greater Delta

10:15 a.m.–10:25 a.m.–Erendira Vasquez, Arkansas United

10:25—10:35–Elzadia Washington, National Black Growers Council

10:35 to 10:45–Alan Gumbel, Black Business Association of Memphis

10:45 a.m. to noon—Education, Regional Culture and Tourism

10:45 to 10:55 a.m.–Cody Behles, University of Memphis

11:05 – 11:15 A.M.–Von Gordon, William Winter Institute, Mississippi

11:15—11:25 A.M.–​INVITED—Arkansas State University representative

11:25—11:35 a.m.–Munnie Jordan, King Biscuit Blues Festival

11:35—11:45 a.m.–​Kyle Miller, Delta Cultural Center

11:45 a.m. to noon or whenever she finishes–Joyce Elliott, Get Loud Arkansas voter registration program

Please RSVP & Register before May 18 early registration deadline for May 30-31, 2024 Delta Caucus Zoom Meeting

Posted on April 24, 2024 at 01:48 PM

Please Register for the May 30-31, 2024 Delta Caucus Meeting by Zoom; Early Registration Deadline is May 18, 2024.

You register and RSVP by paying the registration fees–that information is below in this message. Registration fees are $75 but after May 18 they go up to $100.

The Zoom meeting is just as important as an in-person meeting. We have about 37 RSVPs now and are adding more each day.

The Zoom format will reduce expense, time and other challenges of larger, in-person conferences, and enable more participation from people who live a long way from Little Rock, AR. There is a broad trend toward Zoom meetings and we need to acknowledge that fact.

We will provide information on how to tune in to the Zoom meeting when it gets closer to the time.

The key issues will be job creation, infrastructure, health care, hunger and nutrition, Delta Heritage tourism, the Delta Regional Authority budget and impact, education/workforce development, transportation and related regional development subjects.

SCHEDULE

The opening session will be the evening of May 30, 2024, Thursday, about 5:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.

The Friday session May 31, 2024 will be from 9 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m.

REGISTRATION

You register by paying the registration fees.

The early registration fee of $75 is good until May 1, 2024 to provide an incentive to get the registration fees in before the time of the conference. Registration fees go up to $100 starting May 1.

The fastest and easiest way to register is to go on the website at mdgc.us and go to the PayPal link that says “Donate.”

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

After May 18 and up to May 31 the registration fees go up to $100.

We would request that people NOT wait until the time of the conference to pay registration fees because it takes up time to collect them while we are trying to get the program started.

We would greatly prefer to not have to collect registration fees after the conference is over, so the fees go up to $125 each if we have to collect them at that late time.

Group discount: We will offer a group discount of $50 each for a group of three or more, and a discount down to $30 each for a group of five or more.

Preliminary information on key issues and speakers:

The key subjects will include job creation, infrastructure, health care, hunger and nutrition, Delta Heritage tourism, the Delta Regional Authority, education/workforce development, transportation and related regional development subjects.

Panel on The Delta regional initiative from the late 1980s to the present:

–Lee Powell, Caucus Director, former Presidential appointee in the Clinton administration, one of managers of the New Markets Initiative and the Delta Regional Initiative (originally from Arkansas);

–Wilson Golden, former Presidential appointee in the Clinton administration, manager of the New Markets Initiative and the Delta Regional Initiative along with Lee Powell and the late Al Eisenberg), native of Mississippi;

–Mike Marshall, former Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority, veteran Delta regional leader from Sikeston, Missouri;

We are working on many other invitations. Below are some confirmed speakers on a range of other issues:

–Joel Berg, CEO, Hunger Free America

–Mike Marshall, banker and former Mayor of Sikeston, Missouri, former Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority

–Michelle Monse or Joyvin Benton, King Foundation;

–Ralph Brown, Southern Bancorp Community Partners;

–Keesha Smith, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families;

–Cody Behles, University of Memphis, Executive Director for Innovation and Research Support;

–Brad Cole, Executive Director, Municipal League of Illinois;

–President Chris Heigle, Arkansas Northeastern College;

–Pat Van Burkleo, Executive Director, Feeding Louisiana;

–Alan Gumbel, Black Business Association of Memphis, Tennessee;

–Munnie Jordan, Executive Director of the King Biscuit Blues Festival, Helena, Arkansas;

–Elzadia Washington, National Black Growers Council;

–Sylvia Blain, Executive Director, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance;

Thanks again for all your great support of the Delta regional advocacy initiative over the years. Lee Powell, Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347