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 Urges Defeat of Arkansas Bills Harmful to the SNAP (food stamp) program

Posted on March 20, 2019 at 03:16 PM

The Delta Caucus urges state legislators and all concerned citizens to oppose state legislation that will only be harmful to many Arkansas families struggling with food insecurity.

We would urge colleagues in our other seven states to oppose similar legislation at the state level that would clearly harm administration of SNAP benefits.

Please oppose House Bill 1775 that would expand the work requirement for the state food program’s work requirement; House Bill 1731 that would disqualify parents who refuse to cooperate with the state in establishing paternity of a child and seeking a court order for child support; and House Bill 1743 prohibiting recipients from using their benefits to buy energy drinks, soft drinks or candy.

Food stamp recipients in the vast majority of cases either already have low-paid jobs or are doing everything they can to find work, and expanding the work requirement will only cause many families to lose their food stamp (SNAP–Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits.

“We have the highest levels of food insecurity in America in the Delta according to USDA, and these ill-advised, vindictive bills will only make the problem worse,” said Caucus Director Lee Powell.

Renee Griffin, community development specialist in east Arkansas, said “These bills would do more harm than good for the recipients of the vital SNAP program in heartland Delta areas like Phillips, Lee and St. Francis counties.”

Harvey Joe Sanner of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas in Des Arc, said “SNAP is a solid program and what we need in the Delta is more economic development and job opportunities rather than this harmful legislation that would just punish people who are trying so hard to make a living.”

Former state senator Charlie Cole Chaffin said “As a former state legislator I know from experience that these kinds of punitive bills hurt far more than they help people. In the Delta there aren’t many good job opportunities and often when they can find work it is so poorly paid that they can’t feed their families.

As you know, Arkansas reinstated the work requirement for able-bodied food stamp recipients age 19 to 49 with no dependent children in 2016, when the state unemployment rate declined enough to no longer qualify for an exemption. The new bill would make education and and training programs mandatory for about 50,000 food stamp recipients age 50 to 60 and those who have dependent children 6 years old or older. This will only add another burden to people already struggling and trying to find work and feed their families.

For HB 1731, the requirements regarding parents would impose costs of installing a computer system of $1.4 million, cause an increase in their caseload by 11,600 cases, and increase staffing needs to an additional 40 positions, according to the Arkansas Office of Child Support Enforcement.

Regarding HB 1743, there is indeed a problem of obesity in the Delta region and Arkansas as a whole, but it is a broad, societal problem. Food stamp benefits are very low and they have to choose low-cost foods that will ward off hunger pangs. We should all encourage healthier diets, but lower income people don’t have the same ability to buy high-nutrition food.

In any case, would you like to be told that you can’t buy energy drinks or soft drinks? Have you ever bought Coca-Cola or energy drinks?

The Arkansas Grocers and Retail Merchants Association and Edward’s Food Giants executives indicated it would be difficult to identify which items are candy or soft drinks.

Please defeat these bills.

Education/workforce development/Jobs for Delta Conference at ASU Mid-South in West Memphis, April 25-26

Posted on March 18, 2019 at 01:19 PM

We have a strong line-up of federal, state, local and private sector leaders for the Greater Delta Region conference at Arkansas State University Mid-South on April 25-26.

Among the leaders are Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis, Mike Preston, Director of Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Daryl Bassett, Director of Arkansas Dept. of Workforce Services, Rex Nelson, Senior Editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Mayor James Strickland of Memphis, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris, President David Rudd of the University of Memphis, and leaders from Mississippi, Louisiana, Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri.

Our host, Chancellor Debra West of Arkansas State University Mid-South, is a key participant. ASU Mid-South does a great job of preparing people for good jobs in our region.

Please RSVP for the Greater Delta Region conference in West Memphis by email at LeePowell@Delta.Comcastbiz.net or to (202) 360-6347.

Schedule, registration and group hotel information are below in this email.

The opening session is Thursday evening, April 25, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the ASU Mid-South Marion Berry Building.

April 26 session is Friday morning and lunch, April 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the same location.

Among the key issues will be education/workforce development, job creation at good wages, infrastructure, downtown revitalization and Delta heritage tourism, civil rights/diversity, and health care.

Participants will include:

–Mike Preston, Director, Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s right hand man on economic development;

–Mayor Jim Strickland of Memphis and Shelby County Tennessee Mayor Lee Harris of the largest metropolitan area of our region;

–Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis, one of the most senior Democratic Members of Congress;

–Our host, Chancellor Debra West of Arkansas State University Mid-South, who is doing excellent work in preparing people for well-paying jobs in our region;

–Rex Nelson, senior editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette who has written many constructive columns about downtown revitalization and Delta heritage tourism projects that not only generate tourist dollars for the region but educate people about our great legacy, and a former Alternate Federal Co-Chair of the Delta Regional Authority;

–Daryl Bassett, Director of the Arkansas Dept. of Workforce Services;

–Zoe Savitsky, Deputy Legal Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center based in New Orleans, Louisiana, expert on children’s issues;

–Mike Marshall, CEO of the Sikeston, Missouri Regional Chamber of Commerce and economic development corporation, another former Alternate Federal Co-Chair of the DRA;

–President Valmadge Towner of Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale, Mississippi;

–Mayor Chuck Espy of Clarksdale, Mississippi;

–Wilson Golden, board member of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation in Mississippi, and a colleague of Caucus director Lee Powell when they were Presidential appointees in the Clinton administration and two of the four senior managers of President Clinton’s Delta Regional Initiative;

–Shelley Ritter, Delta Blues Museum, Clarksdale, Mississippi; Brad Cole, executive director of the Municipal League for the state of Illinois;

–Millie Atkins, community leader and senior Delta Caucus adviser from Monroe, Louisiana;

–Mayor Shirley Washington, Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Mayor Sheldon Day of Thomasville, Alabama in the Alabama Black Belt;

–Alan Gumbel of the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce;

–Arnetta Macklin of the Memphis Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA);

–Randy Henderson of Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas in Blytheville, Arkansas;

–Mayor James Sanders, Blytheville, Arkansas;

–Priscilla Johnson, executive director of the Mississippi County Economic Opportunity Commission in Blytheville;

–Sen. David Wallace of Leachville, AR; Rep. Monte Hodges of Blytheville; Rep. Chris Richey of Helena and other state legislators;

–Mayor Kevin Smith of Helena, Arkansas;

–Mayor Pro Tem and City Commissioner Richard Abraham of Paducah, Kentucky;

–Mark O’Mell, executive director of the East Arkansas Crossroads Coalition based in Wynne;

–Other grassroots partners from the 8-state Greater Delta region.

We have greatly shortened this conference so that it is a relatively brief opening session in the evening and then just the morning and lunch the next day. We have entirely eliminated the afternoon session in deference to the smaller attention spans of our Twitter-Facebook-Instagram world nowadays.

This is by invitation only and is for not more than 100 influential, knowledgeable leaders from across the region. This is the right size for this event because it is large enough to be a significant number but small enough for each invitee to feel like they are an important part of the whole. We emphasize quality over quantity.

The location on the campus will be the Marion Berry Room and we will get exact directions to that building when it gets closer to the time.

REGISTRATION

Group discounts are available if you can get a group of four or five or more.

Registration fees are $100–$75 for registration fees and $25 for annual membership dues.

You register by paying the registration fees/dues.

The easiest way to pay 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 check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

GROUP HOTEL

We were able to negotiate the very low group hotel discount rate of $69 at the Clarion Inn in West Memphis for April 25.

To get the group discount rate of $69, call the Clarion Inn at (870) 735-4055 and tell them you are with the Delta Caucus group.

Many people will just stay the night of April 25, but if you can stay an extra night to see the extraordinary Delta heritage tourism sites in the Memphis/West Memphis area, you can also get that low rate for Friday, April 26. You would pay far more than that for a hotel just minutes across the Mississippi River in Memphis.

The Clarion Inn is just minutes away across the Mississippi River from Beale Street and the National Civil Rights Museum.

Just FYI–The Memphis/West Memphis area has many great tourist attractions, including the National Civil Rights Museum, Beale Street, Graceland, the Harahan bridge from West Memphis to Memphis where you can walk across the Mighty Mississippi, and if you are interested in history–the new Sultana steamboat disaster museum near ASU Mid-South in Marion, Arkansas. The Sultana was the worst maritime disaster in US history—the captain recklessly overloaded the boat with Union soldiers trying to return home from Confederate prisoner of war camps, the faulty boiler was not properly repaired, and the boat exploded with massive loss of life.

If you can possibly work it into your schedule, we are encouraging everybody to stay a little longer after the conference ends at Friday lunch on April 26 to see the many historic sites in this local area. You can also get the low group rate for April 26.

Thanks so much. Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347

Please RSVP for Greater Delta Region Conference in West Memphis, April 25-26, 2019

Posted on January 31, 2019 at 01:58 PM

Please RSVP for the Greater Delta Region conference in West Memphis by email at LeePowell@Delta.Comcastbiz.net or to (202) 360-6347.

Space is limited. Schedule, registration and group hotel information are below in this email.

The opening session is Thursday evening, April 25, from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the ASU Mid-South Marion Berry Building, and then Friday morning and lunch, April 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the same location.

Key issues: Among the key issues will be job creation at good wages, infrastructure improvements, education/workforce development, downtown revitalization and Delta Heritage tourism.

We will also be continuing our longstanding advocacy for USDA programs in nutrition, rural development and agriculture, health care, support for the Delta Regional Authority, and the pressing serious of issues we have on agricultural trade with opening up trade to Cuba, maintaining our trade with Mexico and Canada, and other trade issues with their impact on agricultural exports.

REGISTRATION

Registration fees are $100–$75 for registration fees and $25 for annual membership dues.

You register by paying the registration fees/dues.

The easiest way to pay 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 check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

GROUP HOTEL

We were able to negotiate the very low group hotel discount rate of $69 at the Clarion Inn in West Memphis for April 25.

To get the group discount rate of $69, call the Clarion Inn at (870) 735-4055 and tell them you are with the Delta Caucus group.

The conference is still three months away so we are in the early stages of putting the program together, but among our early confirmed speakers and others who have participated in the past are included:

–Mayor Jim Strickland of Memphis, the biggest city of our region;

–Our host, Chancellor Debra West of Arkansas State University Mid-South, who is doing excellent work in preparing people for well-paying jobs in our region;

–Mike Preston, Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC), who is doing a great job of bringing jobs and investment to Arkansas;

–Rex Nelson, senior editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette who has written many constructive columns about downtown revitalization and Delta heritage tourism projects that not only generate tourist dollars for the region but educate people about our great legacy, and a former Alternate Federal Co-Chair of the Delta Regional Authority;

–Shelby County, Tennessee Mayor Lee Harris;

–Congressman Steve Cohen of Memphis (invited), one of the most senior Democratic Members of Congress, as well as senior Republican Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton who will also be invited—Members of Congress usually confirm much later in the process;

–Other Members of Congress and high level officials including Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Caldwell (invited) from the region from both parties;

–President David Rudd, the University of Memphis;

–Zoe Savitsky, Deputy Legal Director, Southern Poverty Law Center, New Orleans, Louisiana;

–Mike Marshall, CEO of the Sikeston, Missouri Regional Chamber of Commerce and economic development corporation, another former Alternate Federal Co-Chair of the DRA;

–President Valmadge Towner of Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale, Mississippi;

–Mayor Chuck Espy of Clarksdale, Mississippi;

–Wilson Golden, board member of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation in Mississippi, and a colleague of Caucus director Lee Powell when they were Presidential appointees in the Clinton administration and two of the four senior managers of President Clinton’s Delta Regional Initiative;

–Brad Cole, executive director of the Municipal League for the state of Illinois;

–Millie Atkins, community leader and senior Delta Caucus adviser from Monroe, Louisiana;

–Mayor Sheldon Day of Thomasville, Alabama in the Alabama Black Belt;

–Alan Gumbel of the Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce;

–Arnetta Macklin of the Memphis Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA);

–Mayor Pro Tem and City Commissioner Richard Abraham of Paducah, Kentucky;

–Randy Henderson of Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas in Blytheville, Arkansas;

–Priscilla Johnson, executive director of the Mississippi County Economic Opportunity Commission in Blytheville;

–Sen. David Wallace of Leachville, AR; Rep. Monte Hodges of Blytheville; Rep. Chris Richey of Helena and other state legislators;

–Mayor Kevin Smith of Helena, Arkansas;

–President Terri Lee Freeman or another senior official of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis (invited);

–Porter Briggs, advocate for the White River Bridge in Clarendon and other Delta heritage tourism initiatives;

–Mark O’Mell, executive director of the East Arkansas Crossroads Coalition based in Wynne;

–Other grassroots partners from the 8-state Greater Delta region.

We have greatly shortened this conference so that it is a relatively brief opening session in the evening and then just the morning and lunch the next day. We have entirely eliminated the afternoon session in deference to the smaller and smaller attention spans of our Twitter-Facebook-Instagram world nowadays.

This has greatly reduced the issue we had at times in earlier years of people leaving early, which they especially tended to do in the afternoon session–we solved that by not having an afternoon session.

We would ask that people not leave early before the end of the two sessions–especially at the luncheon–because we don’t want people to be walking out just before the concluding speakers–and the luncheon in particular is one of the most important parts of the program.

This is by invitation only and is for not more than 100 influential, knowledgeable leaders from across the region. This is the right size for this event because it is large enough to be a significant number but small enough for each invitee to feel like they are an important part of the whole. We emphasize quality over quantity.

The location on the campus will be the Marion Berry Building and we will get exact directions to that building when it gets closer to the time.

If you need the exact address, that is:

ASU Mid-South

Marion Berry Building

355 North College Boulevard

West Memphis, Arkansas 72301

GROUP HOTEL

We were able to negotiate the very low group hotel discount rate of $69 at the Clarion Inn in West Memphis for April 25.

To get the group discount rate of $69, call the Clarion Inn at (870) 735-4055 and tell them you are with the Delta Caucus group.

Many people will just stay the night of April 25, but if you can stay an extra night to see the extraordinary Delta heritage tourism sites in the Memphis/West Memphis area, you can also get that low rate for Friday, April 26. You would pay far more than that for a hotel just minutes across the Mississippi River in Memphis.

The Clarion Inn is just minutes away across the Mississippi River from Beale Street and the National Civil Rights Museum.

Just FYI–The Memphis/West Memphis area has many great tourist attractions, including the National Civil Rights Museum, Beale Street, Graceland, the Harahan bridge from West Memphis to Memphis where you can walk across the Mighty Mississippi, and if you are interested in history–the new Sultana steamboat disaster museum near ASU Mid-South in Marion, Arkansas. The Sultana was the worst maritime disaster in US history—the captain recklessly overloaded the boat with Union soldiers trying to return home from Confederate prisoner of war camps, the faulty boiler was not properly repaired, and the boat exploded with massive loss of life.

The National Civil Rights Museum and Beale Street are truly iconic attractions that should be on everyone’s bucket list to visit.

If you can possibly work it into your schedule, we are encouraging everybody to stay a little longer after the conference ends at Friday lunch on April 26 to see the many historic sites in this local area. You can also get the low group rate for April 26.

Thanks so much. Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347

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.