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 colleague Hunger Free America Opens Fed Food Hotline & Web Portal for Workers Hurt by Shutdown

Posted on January 17, 2019 at 01:54 PM

We would like to send this message from one of the Delta Caucus/Economic Equality Caucus’ long-standing partners, Joel Berg, CEO of the national anti-hunger and poverty organization, Hunger Free America, regarding help for people thrown out of work by the government shutdown.

We have many people in our coalition harmed by this irrational shutdown, both those who lost their income and the many people who relied upon government services that have been cut back or eliminated. We wholeheartedly endorse Hunger Free America’s efforts.

Delta Caucus director Lee Powell was a Presidential appointee in the Clinton administration at USDA, and knows that the vast majority of federal government employees are hard-working, dedicated workers.

Please contact your Members of Congress and encourage them to reach a compromise to stop the shutdown. Lee Powell, Delta Caucus (202) 360-6347

AS UNPAID FEDERAL WORKERS AND CONTRACTORS SEEK FOOD, HUNGER GROUP OPENS NATIONAL “FED FOOD” HOTLINE AND WEB PORTAL

01.14.2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

“As Unpaid Federal Workers and Contractors Seek Food, Hunger Group Opens National “Fed Food” Hotline and Web Portal”

“Efforts to Aid Both Employees Needing Food Help and Those Wanting to Volunteer While Furloughed”

With increasing numbers of employees of the federal government and federal contractors nationwide forced to seek charitable food after missing a paycheck, Hunger Free America, a national nonprofit group, announced a new “Fed Food” toll-free 800 line and web portal to help anyone affected to locate free food and/or to volunteer their time to fight hunger.

Any employee of the federal government or a federal contractor — or any family member of such an employee — who is struggling financially as a result of the government shutdown, can **call the toll free number 855-859-4647 or go to www.HungerFreeAmerica.org/FedFood** to find food resources (such as government food programs and private food pantries) near them and/or to be connected with anti-hunger volunteer activities so they can productively utilize their time off work.

The toll-free line will have live operators answering calls Mondays – Fridays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time, and will take messages at other times. The hotline and web portal will be active as long as the shutdown lasts.

Explaining this new effort, Hunger Free America CEO Joel Berg, said: “We want to make sure that anyone harmed by the shutdown can get and/or give help. Last Friday, hundreds of thousands of federal employees affected by the shutdown missed their first paycheck. The lowest paid federal employees — at the GS 3 pay level — have starting salaries of only $23,043.

“Numerous low-paid employees of federal contractors have also missed paychecks. Given that one in five Americans overall have either zero savings or have debt larger than their savings, it’s clear that low-income federal employees could quickly run out of food after being denied even one paycheck. Many dedicated public servants will need extra help with food. This shutdown vividly demonstrates just how many Americans are only one missed paycheck away from hunger.”

In Ogden, Utah — home to thousands of IRS and U.S. Forest Service workers — Catholic Community Services of Northern Utah waived the income requirements to access its food pantry so that federal workers could utilize it twice a month during the shutdown.

In Huntington, West Virginia, employees of the Ashland Federal Corrections Institution have been forced to get food from a local food bank. Coast Guard employees in Key West, Florida have accessed charitable food for the first time.

Continued Berg, “Since most of the federal nutrition assistance programs are now funded through February, we can help federal employees who may now qualify for them to access them while they last. Ironically, some of the employees that administer federal food assistance may be now be eligible to obtain help from such programs. We can also help all federal employees and contract employees locate private charities that provide food help, although food pantries nationwide were overwhelmed before the shutdown, and they only have a limited supply of food, so there is no absolute guarantee that when people contact us for food help and we refer them to a local food program, they will get all the help they need. But if we can help even a little bit, we need to try.”

Berg himself was a federal employee for eight years, working as an appointee at the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1993 to 2001.

“I know from personal experience that most federal employees are very hard working and highly dedicated to public service,” Berg said. “That’s why we also want to make it easier for them to use their furloughed time to serve the public by performing anti-hunger volunteer service.”

President Signs Farm Bill into Law, Preserving SNAP Intact, & Agriculture, Rural Development Programs

Posted on December 21, 2018 at 11:58 AM

President Trump signed the farm bill into law in a reversal to his efforts earlier this year to sharply cut SNAP funding. “The Delta Caucus commends Representatives French Hill, Rick Crawford, Bruce Westerman, and Steve Womack as well as Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas for their constructive willingness to compromise and pass SNAP nutrition, agriculture and rural development programs; this culminated in the President’s signing the bill todayl,” said Lee Powell, Caucus Director.

However, the Delta Caucus and other advocates for the SNAP nutrition program warned the administration not to try to pass measures that will result in reducing access to SNAP. “If they try to undo the bipartisan work of Congress by administrative actions, they will face as much or more opposition than they did when these efforts were defeated previously. They would be well-advised to drop this attempted end-run around the bipartisan agreement of both houses of Congress,” Powell said.

Mayor-Elect Kevin Smith of Helena, Arkansas said “The SNAP program in the Farm Bill is a fundamental issue that keeps hundreds of people in our community from severe levels of hunger. We here in the heart of the Delta rely on SNAP more than most areas and we are glad that our House delegation and Sen. Boozman worked out this compromise that preserves SNAP intact.”

Rep. Reginald Murdock (D-Marianna) said “I am grateful to see leaders from both parties in Congress working for a compromise that will support the all-important nutrition programs and other farm bill provisions that are crucial for east Arkansas and the entire Delta region.”

Johnnie Bolin, Chairman of the Cornerstone Coalition in southeast Arkansas (Desha, Chicot, Drew, Ashley and Bradley counties) said “This is great that leaders from both parties are working together on a bipartisan, practical compromise that will be beneficial for nutrition, agriculture and rural development in southeast Arkansas and the Greater Delta Region.”

The House version would have cut $20 billion from SNAP over 10 years and would have led to the removal of an estimated 2 million people from the program. SNAP is about 80% of the budget at $70 billion last year and is the basic anti-hunger safety net for over 40 million Americans. More than 600,000 people in Arkansas receive SNAP.

Two thirds of SNAP recipients are either children, seniors or the disabled, and over half of the adults in the program already have low-paying jobs. Only about 15% of the entire total of SNAP recipients are able-bodied unemployed adults, and the great majority of them are seeking jobs. The SNAP program already has work requirements.

The agriculture provisions are highly significant for farmers in the Delta who have been harmed by trade disputes, so this is a major accomplishment for the region’s economy.

Farm Bill Conference Report Beneficial for Vital SNAP Nutrition Program

Posted on December 11, 2018 at 03:30 PM

UPDATE: The Farm Bill Conference report passed the House by 369 to 47. Thanks to all our partners who advocated for this constructive result.

The Farm Bill Conference Report is a constructive, bipartisan compromise that deletes provisions harmful to the SNAP program that is vital for Arkansas and the Greater Delta Region, where food insecurity is much higher than national averages. Conferees from both parties and both houses should be praised for this positive outcome for nutrition, agriculture and rural development.

“We applaud the bipartisan Farm Bill Conference Report and urge all nutrition advocates to endorse final passage. This will scrap a provision that would have kicked some deserving people off the program and delete earlier proposed cuts of $20 billion over 10 years in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding. SNAP is a vital safety net for 40 million Americans who struggle with food insecurity,” Caucus Director Lee Powell said.

Farm bill issues have been the most urgent matters the Delta Caucus has dealt with all year, including at its November annual conference in Little Rock with Members of Congress, state and grassroot leaders from across the region. “We need to follow up and urge all our House and Senate members across the region to support the Farm Bill Conference Report,” Powell said.

“In addition to preserving the SNAP safety net, the conference report contains other essential provisions to preserve the safety net for farmers when they are being harmed by trade disputes, re-authorizes the Delta Regional Authority, and continues USDA programs in infrastructure, rural small business, expanding broadband access and the fight against the opioids epidemic,” Powell said.

State Rep. Reginald Murdock (D-Marianna) said “I am grateful to see leaders from both parties in Congress working for a compromise that will support the all-important nutrition programs and other farm bill provisions that are crucial for east Arkansas and the entire Delta region.”

Johnnie Bolin, Chairman of the Cornerstone Coalition in southeast Arkansas (Desha, Chicot, Drew, Ashley and Bradley counties) said “This is great that leaders from both parties are working together on a bipartisan, practical compromise that will be beneficial for nutrition, agriculture and rural development in southeast Arkansas and the Greater Delta Region.”

At a time when Congress is often lambasted for dysfunctional gridlock, this was a welcome exception to that pattern as House and Senate leaders worked together for a constructive compromise. The Delta Caucus would especially express our appreciation for Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR), (Rep. French Hill (R-AR), Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan), Ag committee ranking member Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn), and many others for this result.

The conference report has overwhelming support in the Senate where it passed by a huge margin earlier in the year. The House passed its version by only two votes by a strict party-line vote, but with the bipartisan conference result, all we need are a few more US Representatives to support this bill, which is likely the single most important piece of legislation for the Delta Region.

Delta states unfortunately had five of the six worst food insecurity levels in America in the USDA 2016 data. Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama were the three worst, with Arkansas and Kentucky respectively fourth and fifth. The only state outside our region in the worst six states was New Mexico.

The Delta Regional Authority received a vote of approval for the great job they are doing promoting the community and economic development of the 8-state Greater Delta Region from southern Illinois and southeast Missouri to New Orleans and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt. Kudos to DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Caldwell and DRA State Co-Chairman, Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and all the many supporters of the DRA across the region.

Food insecurity in 2016 data from the USDA Economic Research Service (states with the worst food insecurity:

Mississippi: 18.7%

Louisiana: 18.3%

Alabama: 18.1%

New Mexico: 17.6%

Arkansas: 17.5%

Kentucky: 17.3%

Delta Regional Conference Set for April 25-26, 2019, ASU Mid-South in West Memphis

Posted on December 10, 2018 at 01:46 PM

The Delta Caucus spring conference next year will be held at one of the major educational institutions in our region—Arkansas State University Mid-South in West Memphis, Arkansas, April 25-26, 2019. Education is always one of our key issues and ASU Mid-South has a great record of preparing people for well-paying jobs in the heart of our region.

BASIC SCHEDULE:

Opening session is late Thursday afternoon and early evening, April 25, 2019, 4:45 p.m. to 7 p.m.m ASU Mid-South in West Memphis

Friday, April 26, 2019, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., ASU Mid-South in West Memphis

Chancellor Debra West of ASU Mid-South will be one of our key luncheon speakers on April 26, along with invitations that we are starting to work on to Members of Congress, and other prominent state, federal and private sector leaders. We would like to express our appreciation to Chancellor West for providing ASU Mid-South as the host location.

We considered several communities as the host and were gratified that they all expressed strong interest. ASU Mid-South was chosen due to their great work for education in our region, our longstanding ties to their institution going back to the 1990s, and the advantageous geographical location of West Memphis that makes it easier to reach for our partners, starting of course with the Memphis/West Memphis area, but also being relatively convenient for east Arkansas, northeast Louisiana, much of Mississippi, western Kentucky, southeast Missouri, and southern Illinois.

Bachelors’ degrees in the region improving but still lagging behind national averages: We have just received mixed news about higher education in our region: our states have increased their percentages of people with bachelors’ degrees, but four of the five states in the United States with the lowest are in our region—West Virginia is last, followed by Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky and Louisiana. (Data is below in this message.)

REGISTRATION FEES AND ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP DUES

You register by paying the $100 registration fees, which are $25 for the annual membership dues for 2019, and $75 for registration fees.

For those who have paid their annual membership dues the registration fees will be $75. Those who have paid the annual dues will also receive a discount on the fall, 2019 conference, usually held in Little Rock at the State Capitol Rotunda and Clinton Presidential Center.

The easiest way to pay registration and dues is to go to the website at mdgc.us and go to the PayPal link at the top of the site that says “Donate.”

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the $100 check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

We are working on getting a group discount rate at a West Memphis hotel and will pass that information along soon.

This is by invitation and space is limited.

Data from the American Community Survey, 2013-2017 regarding numbers of people with bachelors’ degrees

For 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico—52 jurisdictions (reported in Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and other media)

National average: 30.9%

Bottom Five:

  1. West Virginia 19.9%

  2. Mississippi 21.3%

  3. Arkansas 22%

  4. Kentucky 23.2%

  5. Louisiana 23.4%

Those with the highest percentage with bachelor’s degrees were the District of Columbia with the highest at 56.6%, Massachusetts at 42.1%, Colorado with 39.4%, and Maryland with 39%

On the positive side, Arkansas’ rate of bachelors’ degrees rose by 2.9%.

Two other states—Tennessee and Missouri–in the Greater Delta Region had among the highest percentage increases in the number of bachelors’ degrees in the nation, with Tennessee’s rate increasing by 3.4% and Missouri only slightly lower in its increase.

On another positive note regarding education, in Arkansas from 2010 to 2017 the number of Arkansans 18 and older who had graduated from high school rose from 81.9% to 85.6%, for a 3.7% increase.

Arkansas’ rate of increase for high school graduates was higher than the national average for that period, which was 2.3% increase in high school graduates, from 85% to 87.3%.

Delta Queen Bill Passes US House by Voice Vote with no Opposition--Nov. 27, 2018

Posted on November 28, 2018 at 10:41 AM

“Delta Queen Supporters Win Historic Victory after 10-Year Struggle to Permit Historic Steamboat to Travel on Mississippi and its Tributaries”

Tuesday night the US House of Representatives passed by voice vote without opposition the Coast Guard Authorization Bill including language that will allow the Delta Queen to travel America’s rivers once again. This is the final Congressional vote on the legislation that the Delta Caucus and many other Delta Queen supporters have been supporting for 10 years now.

“The Delta Caucus would like to thank all of our grassroots supporters across the region for never giving up on the Delta Queen for so many years and through so many disappointments. We have won and it was worth all the hard work,” said Lee Powell, Delta Caucus director.

Passage of the bill means that the Delta Queen will return to its travels on the Mississippi, Arkansas and Ohio rivers. The boat has an exemplary safety record, there will be additional layers of safety precautions added by the ownership, the boat is a national historic icon that will educate many people across the country about the great legacy of steamboating, and it will generate tourist dollars in the many ports where it stops.

Cities where the boat will stop will include New Orleans and other Louisiana destinations, Helena, Pine Bluff, Little Rock, Memphis, Cape Girardeau, St. Louis, Paducah, Kentucky, Cincinnati and many other cities along the Ohio, Mississippi and Arkansas rivers.

With the voice vote passage in the House without opposition and the Senate’s earlier overwhelming passage by 94 to 6, President Trump is expected to sign the Coast Guard Authorization bill that included the provision allowing the Delta Queen to travel once again across America’s inland waterways.

Kudos to Cornel Martin, CEO of the Delta Queen company, and the many grassroots supporters from the Delta Caucus and other organizations who have fought so hard to keep the boat traveling on America’s inland waterways over the past 10 years, despite many trials and tribulations.

Cornel Martin will be doing a system of upgrades to the boat, including new boilers, generators, rebuilding the paddlewheel, adding more exit routes, and the bill requires 10% of the wooden or other parts of the boat to be replaced with non-combustible materials each year.

“Cornel Martin has gone above and beyond the call of duty in adding layer after layer of safety precautions to a boat that already had an excellent safety record,” Powell said.

This will create 150 jobs as well as generating tourist dollars in places where the boat will stop like Helena, Pine Bluff, Little Rock, Memphis and many other ports on the Mississippi, Arkansas and Ohio rivers.