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.

Delta Caucus Commends Gov. Asa Hutchinson's Public Service and Courage to Oppose Trump, Support the Rule of Law

Posted on January 18, 2024 at 02:12 PM

“Delta Caucus Commends Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s Public Service and Courage to Oppose Trump”

Jan. 18, 2024 CONTACT: Lee Powell, Caucus Director (202) 360-6347

The Delta Grassroots Caucus praises Gov. Asa Hutchinson for his courageous efforts to oppose Donald Trump’s threat to the rule of law.

The Democratic National Committee’s snide comments about Gov. Hutchinson only weaken the effort of all thoughtful, reasonable people to stand for democracy.

Gov. Hutchinson made stalwart efforts to run a moderate Republican campaign opposing Trump’s encouragement of insurrection on Jan. 6.

Delta Caucus partners have known Asa for literally decades. Delta Caucus Director Lee Powell was a federal court law clerk for US District Judge Bill Wilson when Asa practiced in that court, and he was notable for upholding the finest standards in pursuit of representing his clients and promoting justice.

We also knew him as Governor of Arkansas, Presidential candidate and other capacities, and he has always demonstrated the highest standards of integrity and public service.

We regret that Gov. Hutchinson received very few votes in the Iowa caucuses and decided to suspend his campaign, but that does nothing to diminish his courageous efforts to stand up for the rule of law, even when it wasn’t popular among many Republicans.

Gov. Hutchinson has spoken many times over the years to Delta Caucus conferences and always demonstrated strong support for the community and economic progress for the eastern Arkansas Delta, the Delta Regional Authority, and the 8-state Greater Delta Region as a whole. He deserves tremendous respect, and not the partisan, snarky comments from the DNC that they “didn’t know he was still running.”

The Delta Caucus is nonpartisan and opposes all efforts from people of whatever party or political persuasion that encourage extremism and undermine the rule of law.

Arkansas and Missouri Join Summer EBT nutrition program--Major Step Forward in the Fight vs. Hunger

Posted on January 05, 2024 at 01:57 PM

“Arkansas and Missouri Take Major Step to Promote Nutrition by Joining Summer EBT Program”

Jan. 5, 2024 Contact: Lee Powell, Caucus Director (202) 360-6347 or reply to this e-mail

The Delta region has taken an important step forward in the fight against hunger in our region, with Arkansas and Missouri opting in to the summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program.

Congratulations to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkansas for supporting this vital nutrition program, which will provide nutrition to many children who don’t have access to meals when school is not in session.

Kudos to the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance for their tireless and effective work on this and many other hunger and nutrition issues.

At the federal level Sen. John Boozman continues to be a stalwart supporter of this and other nutrition programs and kudos to him as well. Summer EBT provides $120 in food benefits for Arkansas children who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program, a USDA service providing free or reduced price meals for low-income children.

This is a new program that will start this summer after Congress passed it as a section of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023, similar to a program enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Sen. Boozman played a key role in assuring that Summer EBT was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023.

The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance merits great credit for steadfastly advocating for this and other nutrition programs and working constructively with Gov. Sanders and other state and federal officials.

US Census data in September indicated that 22% of Arkansas’ children live in poverty, which is the sixth highest rate in the country, according to the nonprofit Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

In Arkansas a two-person household with a $36,482 income, ranging up to an eight-person household with $93,536 income would qualify for the National School Lunch Program.

Gov. Sanders’ constructive action is a welcome contrast to some other ill-informed, destructive actions taken by the governors of Nebraska, Oklahoma and Iowa against this essential program.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds made the ludicrous comment that this program “does nothing to promote nutrition”–when in fact it fills an important gap in the food safety net during the summer months.

A similar nonsensical comment was made by Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen, who said Nebraska state officials “don’t believe in welfare”; of course, summer EBT is not welfare but provides food to children at a time when school meals programs are not available.

Delta Caucus partners wholeheartedly agree with the statement by Arkansas Human Services Secretary Kristi Putnam that “No child should ever go hungry. Summer EBT will allow us to further help combat food insecurity across Arkansas by providing critical resources for eligible families to provide much needed nutritious food for their children, even when school is out.”

The Arkansas Department of Education and Department of Human Services will work together to administer the program.

There were other notable advances originating in adaptations during the pandemic to meet school children’s needs. School districts started delivering food to children at their homes when schools were closed in 2020. Schools allowed families to get meals for children in the summer.

Sen. Boozman was also vital in establishing this program, which became the Non-Congregate Summer Meal Service in rural areas.

Delta Caucus partners agree with Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance and other anti-hunger advocates that the passage of Act 656 of 2023 was a vital constructive action in eliminating reduced price copayments for school breakfasts and lunches.

Spring Delta Caucus Set for May 30-31, 2024 at Clinton Library; and Appreciation for Sponsors for November, 2023 Little Rock Meeting

Posted on December 08, 2023 at 03:31 PM

The Delta Caucus spring conference in Little Rock has been set for May 30-31, 2024.

Early registration fees as explained below will save you money and help expedite matters for the group as a whole.

NEWSLETTER TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Registration fees

  2. Group hotel

  3. Appreciation for sponsors for November 16-17, 2023

REGISTRATION FEES

Early registration fees will be discounted to $75 each if received by the early registration deadline of April 30, 2024.

Registration fees go up to $100 from May 1, 2024 to May 30-31, 2024.

We discourage people from paying at the front desk at the time of the conference, because this leads to bottlenecks and detracts from a full focus on getting the conference underway.

LATE REGISTRATION FEES–For those who pay after the conference is over, registration fees increase to $125 as an incentive to get the registration fees in on time.

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

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

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

While the great majority of people pay the registration fees, some do not and recently we had an unusually large number who either did not pay the fees on time or still have not paid them. For those who ignore or refuse the obligation to pay, we will not allow them to attend events.

The Delta Caucus is a volunteer, private sector group and this is by invitation only.

GROUP HOTEL

We are working on finalizing the group hotel, which will be the Comfort Inn & Suites Presidential in Little Rock, which has often been the group hotel.

It will likely be a week or ten days before they are ready to take reservations, but we have worked with this group before and expect that they will be ready to take the reservations by mid to late December. You can make the reservation to get the group rate by calling the hotel at 501-687-7700 and saying you are with the Delta Caucus group.

APPRECIATION FOR SPONSORS FOR NOV. 16-17, 2023 DELTA CAUCUS MEETING IN LITTLE ROCK

Lead Sponsor

SmithMack LLC, Alabama

Major Co-Sponsor

Michelle Monse, King Foundation

Sponsors

Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association, Memphis, Tennessee

Arkansas Northeastern College

Greater North Delta Community Development Corporation, Louisiana

Wilson Golden, former Presidential appointee in the Clinton administration, Mississippi native now based in Georgia

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

Data on Poverty in USA and the Greater Delta Over Time, 1960 to 2020

Posted on November 13, 2023 at 02:10 PM

Short List of Constructive Economic Policies and Poverty Data in the USA and Delta Region Over Time

Executive Summary

The basic trend has been a substantial, gradual decrease in poverty from the very high levels of 1959 to 2020. The pandemic will cause poverty to rise again but it will take time to develop exact figures.

1959: national poverty at 22%, Delta states ranging from 54% in Mississippi to 40% in Louisiana;

2019: national level at 11.5%, Delta states ranging from 19.2% in Mississippi to 12.9% in Alabama).

CONCLUSION IN A NUTSHELL: Poverty nationally was cut in half and Delta states poverty levels cut by almost two thirds by 2020, but that is relative to 1959, when US poverty levels were exorbitantly high for an industrialized country.

Poverty is clearly rising again recently due to the pandemic and then the end of pandemic aid.

Even the pandemic levels will be substantially lower than the exorbitant levels of the era before 1965.

Poverty is still higher in the USA than in many other industrialized countries and the Delta figures are higher than the national average.

Key initiatives for promoting economic development and reducing poverty:

There are many other valuable initiatives, but we need to focus on a manageable short list of priorities—this is one suggested list:

Job creation at good wages. This is first and foremost, with small business development being essential, including a wide range of initiatives with examples of USDA rural development and other programs, Small Business Administration,

Infrastructure: US Dept. of Transportation and other state and federal and state infrastructure initiatives that create jobs will improving transportation, housing and other infrastructure. Education and workforce development: This is the key to maintaining and creating good jobs, from K-12 to higher education;

Health care for underserved populations;

Hunger and nutrition—SNAP, WIC, school meals, and other USDA nutrition programs. NOTE: While SNAP is primarily the main bastion against hunger, it also has an economic multiplier impact, with each $1.00 spent by SNAP generating about $1.54 in economic activity.

Delta Heritage tourism: these initiatives bring in tourist dollars while informing people of the region’s great historical and cultural story;

Delta Regional Authority budget is now approximately $30 million, its highest level after.

This contrasts with the situation in earlier decades: the DRA budget decreased to $5 or $6 million in the 2000s, then gradually rose through the years to $12 million and eventually $30 million. This is a modest budget but is supplemental to all the other federal and state programs.

Poverty in the USA and the Greater Delta Region Over Time

1959        22%

1966        15%

2022      11.5%

There was a sharp reduction in poverty from 1959 to 1966 after the major Medicaid, Medicare and other constructive programs were created. Thereafter there were fluctuations with economic cycles and historical eras, but the poverty level did not return to the very high levels of 1959 and continued a general downward pattern until recently. The pandemic of course is making poverty increase currently.        Note: Columbia University adjusted more strictly for historical inflation and found that poverty was 26% in 1967 and 16% in 2012.

      The likelihood is that Columbia is more precise, but all of these are estimates; adding approximately 4 percentage points to most of the US government figures to more closely align with Columbia is likely to be a more accurate estimate.

The Netherlands poverty rate in 2023 is only 4.8%.

The Dutch are one of the very few countries with a safety net strong enough to keep poverty very low. There is no reason the USA and other countries cannot follow their example.

Comparative note on poverty figures for other industrialized economies in 2021 according to Statista:

United Kingdom 11.2% Germany 10.9% France 8.4%

Summary of Delta poverty levels

Fundamental conclusion: poverty in the Delta by 2019 had greatly declined as compared with the 1960 levels, although the 1960 levels were alarmingly high.

–In 1960 the heartland Delta states had exceedingly high poverty
ranging from Mississippi over half at 54.5%; Arkansas at 47.5%, Alabama at 42.5% and Louisiana at 40%.

–By 2019 all the states had improved substantially as compared to the high levels of 1960: Mississippi at 19.2%, Louisiana at 17.9%; Arkansas at 14.1%, and Alabama at 12.9.%

–In 1960 the six heartland Delta states states had very high poverty ranging from 54.5% in Mississippi to 40% in Louisiana;

–By 1980, Mississippi’s poverty had declined to 24.3% and the others were close to 20 or 21%;

–By 1990, poverty had in most states not changed much from 1980 and ranged from 16.9% in Tennessee to 25.7% in Mississippi;

–By 2000, all six states had improved substantially to 12.6% in Kentucky and Louisiana, 14.9% in Mississippi and the highest was Arkansas at 16.5% (Arkansas was not the highest in all other years so this was an exception);

–In 2010, poverty had risen again after the 2007-08 recession: with Arkansas the lowest at 15.3% and Mississippi the highest at 22.5%;

–By 2019 there was substantial improvement with Mississippi improving somewhat to 19.2%, Arkansas at 14.1%, Tennessee at 13.1% and Alabama lowest at 12.9%;

The pandemic is driving poverty levels higher once again. Poverty levels are combined averages over about three years to be accurate, so getting accurate very recent figures is a challenge, but reports from food banks, hunger and nutrition advocates and others report alarming increases.

Poverty data for the six Delta heartland states over time:

Arkansas:

1960 47.5%

1970 27.8%

1980 21.5%

1990 19.6%

2000 16.5%

2010 15.3%

2019 14.1%

Alabama

1960 42.5%

1970 25,4%

1980 21.2%

1990 19.2%

2000 13.3%

2010 17.2%

2019 12.9%

Kentucky

1980 19.3%

1990 17.3%

2000 12.6%

2010 17.7%

2019 13.6%

Louisiana

1980 20.3%

1990 23.6%

2000 12.6%

2010 21.5%

2019 17.9%

Mississippi

1960 54.5%

1980 24.3%

1990 25.7%

2000 14.9%

2010 22.5%

2019 19.2%

Tennessee

1980

19.6%

1990

16.9%

2000

13.5%

2010

16.7%

2019

13.1%

Note on the statistical sources: (Illinois and Missouri are not included because their Delta areas are relatively small parts of these states, and significant, large non-Delta areas in those two states are relatively much more prosperous than the Delta heartland. Statewide figures in those states as a whole would be quite substantially at variance with the Delta areas. )

There are variations in all the states, and the Delta areas generally have somewhat higher poverty rates than the rest of the state. But Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana have large Delta areas including over half of those states; western Kentucky and western Tennessee are Delta areas, but there are also economically distressed areas in those states in the eastern Appalachian areas. The Alabama Black Belt is generally more economically distressed than the rest of the state, but there are substantial areas of economic distress outside the Black Belt as well. Statistics for these states provide a broadly accurate general picture of the situations there.

Sources are the US Census and federal government at data.gov; World Bank; Eurostat from the European Commission; Columbia University. There are some differences in the statistics but the basic trends are broadly similar for most of the sources. All of these figures are estimates, although they are likely to give fairly close projections of the real environment.

Exception: Columbia University finds poverty to be significantly higher because it adjusts more strictly for historical inflation. We include both results where feasible, but it is likely that adding 3 to 4 percentage points to the government officials to make them more closely align with the Columbia estimates will reach the most accurate estimate.

Latest Draft of Delta Caucus Agenda for Nov. 16-17, 2023 Meeting at Little Rock Comfort Inn Presidential

Posted on November 09, 2023 at 04:57 PM

Delta Grassroots Caucus Nov. 9, 2023

Latest Draft of Agenda of Delta Grassroots Caucus, Nov. 16-17, 2023 in Little Rock

Below is the latest draft of the agenda for the Nov. 16-17, 2023 Delta Caucus in Little Rock at the Comfort Inn Presidential Dean/MacArthur Room.

Address of Comfort Inn Presidential Dean/MacArthur Room is 707 Interstate 30, Little Rock, AR 72202

Lee Powell has a bad case of the flu and can’t make it this time around. We have asked Vice President Blanche Hunt of Arkansas Northeastern College, Billy McFarland of the nonprofit ESP Police Support League in Alabama, and a couple of other partners to help move along the speakers, just in case a speaker or panel goes on too long, although with our brilliantly concise speakers we can’t imagine that happening!

If you just follow the order of the agenda we don’t need much if any moderating.

Note: We do not have long, formal introductions to save time and avoid unnecessary formality, especially for a smaller-scale group of about 40 people or so. We would prefer for speakers to briefly introduce themselves.

This meeting is important as we try to get people back in the habit of attending in-person conferences after the hiatus caused by the pandemic.

We plan to return to a larger-scale conference at the Clinton Library (if available) or another prominent Little Rock venue in the spring of 2023, date and time TBD in late 2023 or early 2024.

We will follow the order of speakers and times as listed on the agenda. If anyone needs to move the speakers along, we have asked a few people including Vice President Blanche Hunt of Arkansas Northeastern College and a couple of others to just diplomatically ask the speakers to move ahead.

There is some flexibility built into the schedule and we don’t have to stick exactly to the agenda by the second, although we need to be close to it. Thanks—Lee Powell, Delta Caucus ​​_

Delta Grassroots Caucus Agenda

Nov. 16-17, 2023 Meeting in Little Rock, Arkansas

Comfort Inn Presidential Dean/MacArthur Room

Opening Session, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.–Substantive Session; then informal networking and dinner, 7 p.m. to 7:50 p.m. or so

Vice President Blanche Hunt, Arkansas Northeastern College, general moderator

5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.–Hunger, Nutrition and Smaller-Scale Farmers Initiatives

5:30 p.m. to 5;40 p.m.–Dorothy Grady Scarbrough, Mississippians Engaged in Greener Agriculture (MEGA), Shelby, Mississippi

5:40 to 5:50 p.m. p.m.–Heather Coller, Engagement Coordinator, Southeast Missouri Food Bank, Sikeston, Missouri

5:50 to 6 p.m.–Speakers regarding the in-door, year-round fresh produce project in Eudora Arkansas

6 p.m. to 6:10 p.m.–Joyce Elliott, Director of Get Loud Arkansas nonprofit and former senator, speaking about the LEARNS act and its impact on education in Arkansas

6:10 p.m. to 7 p.m.–Best Practices/Nonprofits in the Greater Delta

6: 10 p.m. to 6:20 p.m.–Billy McFarland, TSP Police Support League, Alabama

6:20 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.–Michelle Monse, King Foundation, operating in Arkansas and Texas

6:30 p.m. to 6:40 p.nAngela Scott, Memphis Inter-Faith Association (MIFA) based in Memphis, Tennessee

6:40 to 6:50 p.m.–Joel Evans, Delta Area Economic Opportunity Commission, based in Sikeston, Missouri

6:50 to 7 p.m.–Fredric Smith, East Arkansas Enterprise Community, based in Forrest City, Arkansas

7 p.m. to 8 p.m.–informal networking dinner at Comfort Inn Presidential Dean/MacArthur Room

Friday, Nov. 17, 2023, 9 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.

9 a.m. to 9:50 a.m.–Economic Development from Viewpoint of Local Elected Officials in the Delta

9 a.m. to 9:10 a.m.–Mayor Chuck Espy, Clarksdale, Mississippi

9 a.m. to 9”20 a.m.–Mayor Jaylen Smith of Earle, Arkansas

9:20 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.–Mayor Ora Stevens, Marianna, Arkansas

9:30 a.m. to 9:40 a.m.–Mayor Melisa Logan, Blytheville, Arkansas

9:40 to 9:50 a.m.–Mississippi County Judge John Alan Nelson

9:50 a.m. to 10:05 a.m.–Delta Heritage Tourism: The Sultana steam boat disaster

Judge John Fogleman (ret). The Sultana Disaster Museum is a project of the Sultana Historical Preservation Society, and John Fogleman is its president.

10:05 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.–Long-Term Perspectives on the Growth of the Delta Regional Authority

Wilson Golden, Presidential Appointee in the Clinton Administration; one of the managers of President Clinton’s Delta Regional Initiative along with Lee Powell and the late Al Eisenberg

Mike Marshall, former Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority

Questions and discussion about the DRA

10;30—10:45 a.m.–former Gov. JIm Folsom, Jr., of Alabama, on economic development for the Delta and Alabama Black Belt

10:45 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.–Education and Workforce Development in the Greater Delta

10:45 a.m. to 10:55 a.m.–Cody Behles, Director of Innovation and Research Development, University of Memphis

10:55 a.m. to 11:05 a.m.–President Chris Heigel and Vice President Blanche Hunt, Arkansas Northeastern College

11:05 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.–Brian Schweiger, National Park Service Little Rock Central High Historic Site

11:15 a.m. to 11: 30 a.m.–Ali Noland, attorney who filed lawsuit against Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ LEARNS education act in Arkansas

If time, we will have discussion. We have reserved time until noon so if there is discussion on this subject we should have some time.