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.

Chelsea Clinton Presentation on Women's Issues & Other Clinton Foundation Programs

Posted on December 15, 2017 at 01:26 PM

We would like to convey Chelsea Clinton’s excellent presentation on women and girls’ issues and other philanthropic, nonpartisan initiatives of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation in a live call-in at the Delta Caucus annual conference this fall.

She was introduced at the annual event on Oct. 20, 2017 by Annette Dove, Executive Director of the exemplary nonprofit TOPPS (Targeting Our People’s Priorities with Service) in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

In this newsletter we also convey the presentations of Director Dove and Ms. Crystal Barnes, a young leader and participant in TOPPS programs in Pine Bluff.

The conference program as a whole: in addition to the presentations by Chelsea Clinton and Annette Dove the program included Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Congressman Rick Crawford, US Sen. John Boozman, Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority Peter Kinder of Missouri, Congressman French Hill’s Chief of Staff Brooke Bennett, Dean Todd Shields of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas, and grassroots leaders from all 8 states of the Greater Delta Region.

This is part of a series of updates on the annual conference in Little Rock in the fall of 2017. A total of 131 people were there for all or parts of the conference.

Chelsea Clinton is Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation, which engages in many beneficial programs in the eight-state Delta region and across the USA in such fields as opening opportunities for women and girls, health care including fighting the opioid crisis, school nutrition, early childhood development, renewable energy and other domestic programs.

A note on the Delta Caucus’ focus on women’s issues: The Caucus of course supports progress for all people, but we believe special attention to women and girls’ issues is needed for a variety of reasons, including the high number of households led by women in the Delta, the fact that women lag far behind in ownership of businesses, the problem of sexual harassment and violence against women, the fact that women are still paid only about 80 cents to a dollar for the same work as men, and the benefits to the regional society and economy of unleashing the full social, economic and political participation of women and girls.

Our region includes the Mississippi River Delta from southern Illinois and Missouri to New Orleans and eastward to include the Alabama Black Belt, which is economically, socially, demographically and historically similar to the Greater Delta Region.

Regarding a major development for Alabama and the nation that happened on Dec. 12, the Delta Caucus notes that US Senator-Elect Doug Jones of Alabama has a strong record on women and minority issues and we look forward to working with him for the community and economic development of our region.

Annette Dove has been widely recognized as one of the most dynamic women leaders in our region: In her introduction, Ms. Dove expressed her appreciation for Chelsea Clinton’s vital help for TOPPS when she was a reporter for NBC national news, and gave a report about TOPPS generating positive national publicity that proved crucial for the organization at a time in 2011 when it was facing serious financial challenges, as do so many of our nonprofits in the Delta.

This publicity was very helpful in helping the fundraising of the organization, which today is flourishing in the historic Delta community of Pine Bluff.

Ms. Dove said “I am forever grateful to Chelsea Clinton for giving TOPPS a lifeline of sustainability.”

Quick facts about the Clinton Foundation: Before summarizing Chelsea Clinton’s presentation, the Delta Caucus would like to summarize independently some facts and research about prestigious organizations that monitor and grade the activities of major nonprofit organizations have given the foundation exemplary ratings.

–Charity Navigator gave the Clinton Foundation a rating of four out of four stars, its highest grade;

–Guidestar gives the foundation its platinum rating for transparency;

–The Better Business Bureau concluded that the Clinton Foundation met all 20 of its standards for charity accountability;

–The Clinton Foundation enjoys an “A” rating from CharityWatch, a project of the American Institute of Philanthropy;

–A very high percentage-88 percent-of the foundation’s donations go to charitable works, according to factcheck.org;

–Forbes listed the Clinton Foundation as the 36th largest charity in the United States in 2016.

Please note these facts come from independent sources and not Chelsea Clinton or anyone affiliated with the Clinton Foundation. The fact is that they have received exemplary ratings from prestigious organizations whose job it is to be the watchdogs and monitor the activities of major charitable foundations.

Caucus Director Lee Powell pointed out that President Clinton has spoken to the Delta Grassroots Caucus conferences eight times either in person or by live call-in, “but this time around we have a little change in programming regarding which member of the Clinton family will be our speaker in Chelsea Clinton, who is now a great leader for the Clinton Foundaton. She has been very helpful to our Delta colleague’s great nonprofit TOPPS in Pine Bluff.”

Annette Dove said that Chelsea received her undergraduate degree with honors from Stanford University and then received a Ph.D. in international relations and global health from Oxford University. She is married to Marc Mezvinsky and has two children, Charlotte and Aidan.

She recalled the crucial help Chelsea Clinton gave to TOPPS in 2011, and cited the vital work of the foundation’s No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, which aims to inspire and advance the full participation of women and girls around the world.

Chelsea Clinton’s presentation:

Ms. Clinton said “Hello to everyone at the Clinton Center in Little Rock. I’m grateful to have this opportunity to connect with you. In particular thanks to Annette for the kind introduction, but even more for your remarkable, tireless leadership at TOPPS. I’m so thankful to have seen your work firsthand and hope to come back and visit soon.”

“I want to thank Lee Powell, Millie Atkins and everyone who worked so hard to bring together this conference of the Delta Grassroots Caucus and Economic Equality Caucus. I just want to thank you for all the work you do to bring opportunity and awareness of the ingenuity of the remarkable people in the Delta, who too often have been overlooked, left out or disparaged certainly through no fault of their own and deserve every opportunity that we could ever imagine.”

“I’m grateful for the chance to share a little bit about the work of the Clinton Foundation to move the needle on gender equality in the United States and around the world. I didn’t know I could care any more about the protection, the empowerment, the advancement of women and girls until I was blessed to welcome my daughter Charlotte into the world just over three years ago. Then her little brother Aidan was born about six months ago, and I found that I actually could care more than I already did.”

“I’m so thankful to have the chance to work on these issues over the years and I feel even an more deeply invigorated commitment to them now that I’m a mom myself.”

In noting some of the many initiatives that the Foundation has been engaged in, Chelsea said “I had the privilege of working with my mother in 2013 on the initiative called No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, in which we took on the ambitious task of looking at where we’d made progress over the last 20 years and where there was still more work to be done. We released our findings in The Full Participation Report online at noceilings.org.”

“We felt strongly that having all of this data in one place hopefully would not only enable a more coherent, data-driven conversation about how far we’ve come but how far we have to go for full participation of women and girls.”

She said the data has been used extensively. People tell her frequently of the many uses they have made from the report, whether for educational purposes such as a high school research report, or companies where they are thinking that they want to see gender equality “as not someone else’s business but really an issue that is everyone’s business.”

The report can be found at NoCeilings.org and the Clinton Foundation website at ClintonFoundation.org. The No Ceilings project is conducted with help from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The report has 850,000 data points collected in the 20 years since the Fourth World Confernce on Women in Beijing in 1995; to cite just a few of the important findings:

–The United States is one of only nine countries in the world that does not have laws providing paid maternity leave-the others are the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Suriname, and Tonga. On the bright side, 75% of other developed countries now provide up to 14 weeks of paid maternal leave. (The U.S. is the only developed country that provides none.)

–While progress has been made, there is still a need to close the gender gap in the US workforce. The gap is especially wide in the technology industry, where women make up only a small fraction of the staff at leading businesses like Facebook and Google.

–Women earn on average 78.3 cents to a dollar for the same work by their male counterparts.

–The number of women graduating with computer science degrees has actually dropped since the 1980s from 38 percent to just 18 percent.

–There were 26 women who were CEOs of Fortune 500 companies; Women hold only one fifth of the seats in the US Congress, so America lags behind the international figure of one fourth of legislative seats held by women globally;

–From the global standpoint, countries that have invested in including women in economic, social, and political participation tend to have stronger economies and safer societies than those with restrictive or prejudicial policies against women;

–There was no percentage change in the gender gap in the global workforce;

–Worldwide, one in three women suffer physical violence in her lifetime;

–The number of women who died giving birth was reduced by 42% from 1995 to 2010, at 146 deaths per 100,000 births;

–200 million fewer women than men have access to the Internet; Only 32% of countries across the globe protect girls’ rights to atted middle ad high school.

–One quarter of brides were married before the age of 18.

Clinton Foundation health care and nutrition work:

Chelsea Clinton said another important Clinton Foundation program is the Health Matters Initiative, which works in Little Rock and many other areas to tackle the challenge of chronic disease. She said many people are still not aware that heart disease is the number one killer of women. The Foundation works to inform people about the health disparities that disproportionately affect women, women of color, and women of color who live in poverty.

She said that to have real health care improvement driven by a commitment to equity and equality, we will need to focus on those populations who are disproportionately affected by health issues. The Foundation has especially addressed Type 2 diabetes in Little Rock and elsewhere across the Delta and other areas that suffer from chronically rates of this severe health problem.

Through the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the Foundation works to improve nutrition for elementary and middle school children. The foundation works to help school districts realize that it does not have to be hard or expensive to make sure kids have access to healthy meals, recess and other physical activities.

Chelsea said “I went to Booker Elementary School in Little Rock not far from where you are at the Clinton Presidential Center, and I had recess every day as a kid and physical education classes multiple times a week. Today fewer than 10% of American kids have recess every day, and that is unconscionable. We know how important it is that kids are able to move and have healthy food, not only for their physical health but for their social, emotional, cognitive and intellectual development as well.”

Through the Alliance over the last decade the Foundation has been working to help remove unhealthy options for kids and get physical activity back in kids’school days.

The Alliance recently launched community focus project to reduce calorie consumption from beverages in the Mississippi Delta and Alabama’s greater Montgomery area by 20% over the next decade. She said that we know that preventive care to help people avoid getting unhealthy in the first place, prevent them from getting obese and reducing Type 2 diabetes is vital at the school level and the community level.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation emphasizes that healthier school environments are essential to give students the knowledge and skills needed to make healthy choices throughout their lifetimes. Studies have demonstrated that students who are physically fit and eat well perform better on tests, make better grades, and have better attendance and conduct in the classroom.

The Healthy Schools Program supports more than 20 million students by improving physical education, child nutrition, health education and staff wellness programs in almost 35,000 schools. This program receives the majority of its funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support schools in states that have the highest rates of obesity.

Erasing the “word gap” for lower income children in single parent households: Chelsea said that another area where she has become passionate as an advocate, a leader and a doer is raise awareness about the word gap between lower income, single parent households and middle income, two-parent households.

By the time children go to kindergarten, kids growing up in a middle income family with two parents will have heard 30 million more words than those growing up in a lower income single-parent household. But people need to know that it is easy for a parent, grandparent or care-giver to erase that gap. Just 15 minutes of talking to tyhem each day can make a major difference.

She highlighted the facts that 80% of our brains are built by the time we are three years old, and “we build a million synaptic connections every second in those early years of life.” Talking to kids and erasing the word gap in those formative years can greatly assist early childhood development and create benefits throughout their lives.

Chelsea said that women are at the center of nutrition, health care climate change and the other vital issues the foundation works on. They are the health care givers, the farmers, the leaders in their families and communities. She emphasized that everything the Clinton Foundation achieves is done through partnerships and listening to Annette Dove and people like her who are making a difference in their communities across the country and the world.

Chelsea concluded by saying that she was grateful for the Delta Caucus’ focus on equality, opportunity and partnerships: “Thank you for letting me be heard today, quite literally, and thank you for all you do in the Delta every day, and that inspires so many of us to do further afield.”

Annette Dove’s presentation:

Ms. Dove recalled that in 2002 she decided she wanted to make a difference in her community. She had worked in the federal HIPPY program, where she oversaw 600 families. She said that when she went into those families’ homes, she saw young mothers and most of them were teen-aged mothers, and “I saw something. I saw no hope.” But having been a teen-aged mother herself, “I knew we could change things around.”

She talked to her husband and said that we need to go back to the community and make a difference, provide services to encourage these women that they can do it. But in the meantime, her husband passed away and she began thinking about “OK, what am I going to do now. I have four children. But it was a call on my life, and it’s my faith that brought me to this level.”

So in 2002 she quit her job with the school district and decided to develop a nonprofit called TOPPS, Targeting Our People’s Priorities with Service. She said she wanted to provide services that were effective and their impact could be measured.

Tutoring and mentoring programs: TOPPS started off with after-school tutoring, then they started a girls mentoring program that was originally written for 20 girls, “but in less than a month we had 52 girls. Most of them were directed from the juvenile justice system.

In three years they had no repeated offenders, no pregnancies, and the kids were getting jobs during the summers.

Groups from Washington, DC asked them what TOPPS was doing to accomplish these positive results, and she said “We were mentoring these young ladies. It makes a difference when you have a strong mentor, first of all wo cares about young people, and will walk them through the process of being successful. They want to be successful and just need the guidance to do so.”

TOPPS now runs 12 programs in the Pine Bluff area and is in its 15th year of operation. Most of the funding comes from private donations. There is one state gramt from the department of education, but the fundraising is based on private donations from “people seeing the difference we’re making in young people’s lives.”

Feeding program: Another of the TOPPS accomplishments is its feeding program. In her local area, one in five go to bed hungry. TOPPS feeds 800 children in the summer and 400 in the fall.

Recently TOPPS received a call from one of its partners, the Arkansas Food Bank, to ask them to distribute emergency food boxes. In the previous month TOPPS had distributed 408 emergency food boxes, and many of the households are headed by women.

Job training: TOPPS job training program has succeeded in getting employment for young people. For example, this summer 20 young people who had been pre-trained by TOPPS in soft skills got jobs with the city. They received rave reviews because they had received that training in soft skills in the workplace.

TOPPS has a graphic department where young people develop skills in design.

Education and travel: TOPPS helps young people to educational travel, such as carryng 20 young people this summer to London and Paris. One of the TOPPS graduates did a research project on sweet potatoes in Ghana, and another young lady just returned from a trip to Japan and she is now a junior in college.

TOPPS program for helping to get students into college: The original focus of TOPPS in education was getting students to complete high school, but increasingly they have concentrated on getting people into college.

Through the DREAMS (Dreams Require Educating and Motivating our Students) tutoring and mentoring program, more than 100 students in the TOPPS program have now gone on to college. DREAMS is its fifth year and they are averaging placing 30 students per year into higher education.

Another young leader who works both at TOPPS and also UAMS is Raychelle Grant, who provided the very useful service of serving as the time-keeper for the Delta conference and did such a careful job that for perhaps the first time ever the program not only stayed on time but actually finished early.

Ms. Grant happens to be Annette Dove’s daughter. (By the way, Ms. Dove also stayed within the time limits for the speakers, as strictly enforced by her daughter.)

Crystal Barnes presentation:

Annette Dove introduced a young leader currently involved in the TOPPS program, Ms. Crystal Barnes, who is now president of the Pine Bluff High School student body.

Ms. Dove shared with the audience an example of the thoughtfulness and leadership of her young people: they were having breakfast before the Clinton Library event began, and it became apparent that a middle-aged lady did not have enough money for her family’s food at the restaurant where they were eating. Annette said “Before I turned around, Crystal went into her purse and paid for that family’s breakfast.”

Crystal Barnes said she is president of the senior class at Pine Bluff High School and a co-coordinator at TOPPS, a 501c3 organization that provides numerous services to the people of Pine Bluff and was founded by Annette Dove in 2002.

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Congressional Participants on Health Care, Infrastructure, Delta Queen, & other Delta Issues

Posted on December 08, 2017 at 01:54 PM

Congressman Rick Crawford, Congressman French Hill’s Chief of Staff Brooke Bennett, and Sen. John Boozman addressed key issues including opening trade to Cuba, the Delta Queen bill, infrastructure and other subjects at the annual Delta conference in October. We want to update you on the subjects they addressed.

This is the fourth in a series of updates on the issues discussed at the Oct. 19-20 Delta conference in Little Rock, Arkansas. These reports are in-depth and we don’t expect people to read all of them, but rather to look at the Table of Contents and scroll down to the issue or two that are of most interest to you.

For the conference as a whole, participants included Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, the Congressional speakers noted above, Chelsea Clinton speaking on behalf of the Clinton Foundation’s nonpartisan, philanthropic work, Peter Kinder, Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority based in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Dean Todd Shields of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas, and grassroots advocates from southern Illinois and Missouri to New Orleans and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt.

Please call your Members of Congress on the pending legislation discussed below: health care, the DRA budget, the Little Rock Central civil rights historic site, and the Delta Queen bill. Detailed information on each issue is below in this newsletter.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. KEY ISSUES TO CONTACT MEMBERS OF CONGRESS ABOUT ON HEALTH CARE, INFRASTRUCTURE, TRADE TO CUBA, THE LITTLE ROCK CENTRAL CIVIL RIGHTS BILL, THE DELTA QUEEN BILL

II. HEALTH CARE UPDATE

III. JOB CREATION, INFRASTRUCTURE, EDUCATION, AND REP. CRAWFORD’S DREAM ADVISORY COUNCIL

IV. REP. FRENCH HILL OF ARKANSAS AND REP. JOHN LEWIS OF GEORGIA BILL FOR LITTLE ROCK CENTRAL HIGH HISTORIC SITE

V. OPENING FARM TRADE TO CUBA

VI. DELTA QUEEN BILL SUPPORTED BY REP. CRAWFORD, SEN. BOOZMAN, AND REP. FRENCH HILL ANNOUNCED HIS SUPPORT AT THE DELTA CONFERENCE

I. SUMMARY OF KEY, URGENT LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVES NOW PENDING REGARDING THE DELTA

We would especially ask all our partners in the 8-state Greater Delta region and the Washington, DC area to contact your Members of Congress on several key issues:

Health care–Supporting legislation to stabilize the marketplace as promised by President Trump in exchange for the ill-advised and detrimental provision inserted into the tax bill that ends the mandate that people have health insurance or pay a penalty. The bipartisan compromise of Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) that would give states greater flexibility and make cost sharing reduction payments to insurance companies should be passed, as endorsed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and many other leaders.

Infrastructure investments–Continue to urge President Trump and Congress to invest in infrastructure in highways all across the region, including the major transportation artery of Interstate 69. If a temporary user fee attached to gas prices is needed to get this jump-started, most of our partners would support it. State gas tax increases will also be needed–infrastructure requires funding!!

DRA funding should be at $28 million-call your US Senators to advocate for this figure and not the lower level passed by the House at $15 million.

The Delta Queen bill continues to gain bipartisan momentum and we are hoping for a vote in the House in December after the Senate’s passage of the bill by an overwhelming margin earlier this year.

The boat has an exemplary safety record, would create 150 jobs if the boat is allowed to travel once again on the Mississippi, Arkansas, and Ohio rivers and their tributaries, is a national historic icon, generates tourist dollars, and educates people about the history and natural beauty of the heartland of America.

The civil rights bill to expand and protect the national historic site of the Little Rock Central High crisis should be passed by the Senate.

Original sponsors Rep. French Hill (R-AR) and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)-the civil rights leader who once marched with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.,–passed the bill in the House unanimously-a remarkable achievement-by 390 to 0.

o The bill is being held up by only one US Senator, Maria Cantwell (D-WA), for no valid reason. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and many others from both parties support this bill and we encourage calls and email to Sen. Cantwell to remove the hold on this bill, especially at a time when we need to commemorate the legacy of our civil rights struggles and have a candid dialogue about race relations in America.

It is of course true that we are asking a US senator from the state of Washington to relent on this issue and she is not from our region-all the more reason as to why it makes no sense for her to obstruct this bill dealing with a historic site in Arkansas. Her office number is 202-224-3441.

Please contact Sen. Cantwell’s office and explain the need for passage of this bill, because it is crucial to preserve this historic site for the future. The bill would expand the national historic site to include seven homes near the school to provide the full street scene, and make the area appear as it did in 1957 when nine students integrated Little Rock Central for the first tme, and expand and protect the site for future generations.

Again, Sen. Maria Cantwell’s number is 202-224-3441. We understand the staff member in charge of this is named Jonathan Hale. If you cannot reach a staff member, please leave a message asking her to stop her opposition to Congressman Hill and Congressman John Lewis’ bill for the LR Central historic site.

Congressman Lewis attempted to communicate with Sen. Cantwell about this but even his efforts have thus far not accomplished anything. We do not know why Sen. Cantwell has placed a hold on this legislation that passed the House unanimously and should pass the Senate similarly. It really makes no sense.

We need to keep up the pressure on the Trump administration and Congress to end the counterproductive embargo against Cuba.

Congressman Crawford and Sen. Boozman are among the leading champions of the effort to open up trade with Cuba, which would benefit Delta rice and chicken producers but other producers across the country. The embargo has been a failure and does nothing to weaken the authoritarian Cuban regime.

Appreciation for Sen. Boozman’s leadership on Delta issues: Delta Caucus senior partners expressed their support for Sen. John Boozman’s constructive work on a range of key issues for the Delta. Sen. Boozman had Senate votes until one or two o-clock in the morning of Oct. 20, so of course it was impossible for him to be at the Delta Caucus event in person as originally planned. But he took the time to record a video dealing with substantive issues such as trade to Cuba, the Delta Queen bill, and the Delta Regional Authority.

The Delta Caucus praised President Trump’s choice of Chris Caldwell, a long-time aide to Sen. Boozman, as Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority. The Senate is expected to confirm this appointment soon. Sen. Boozman has consistently stated his strong support for maintaining the DRA budget in many appearances before the Delta Caucus.

Please contact your US Senators and tell them to restore the DRA budget to its current level of $28 million, and reject the House of Representatives’ unfortunate vote in September to cut the budget to $15 million. We know that Senators John Boozman, Sen. Thad Cochran and Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and other Senators from our region are strong DRA supporters.

The Senators need to hear from our region about this. It makes no sense to cut the budget of $28 million-which was already quite modest considering the size of the 8-state Greater Delta Region of 10 million people.

Sen. Boozman is a leader as well on hunger and nutrition issues, which are crucial in the Delta due to our high levels of food insecurity. He is Co-Chairman of the Senate Hunger Caucus. Among his many constructive activities are included initiatives to bring more access to summer meals programs to rural areas.

II. HEALTH CARE UPDATE

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Gov. Hutchinson & Health Care Speakers; & Need to Preserve Health Care Law Mandate

Posted on November 30, 2017 at 03:16 PM

This is the 3rd in a series of reports on Oct. 19-20 Delta Caucus in Little Rock.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Bo Ryall, CEO of the Arkansas Hospitals Association, and Billy McFarland of Judson College in the Alabama Black Belt gave thoughtful, highly informative presentations on health care the Oct. 20 session of the Delta Caucus at the Clinton Library in Little Rock.

With Congress debating important changes in the Affordable Care Act that are included in the latest version of the tax cut bill, we are summarizing the great presentations made at the recent Clinton Library session of the Delta Caucus by Gov. Hutchinson, the Arkansas Hospitals Association CEO Bo Ryall, and Billy McFarland of Judson College-currently in the process of establishing a new rural hospital in the heart of the Alabama Black Belt.

It is vital for all our partners to follow this debate and express their views to your representatives in Congress, as well as at the state level.

These reports are in-depth and we do not expect anyone to read all of it, but please scroll down to those parts listed in the Table of Contents that are most important for you.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. COMMENT ON THE FLURRY OF HEALTH CARE PROPOSALS BEING CONSIDERED FOR INCLUSION IN THE TAX BILL IN WASHINGTON, DC, & NEED TO OPPOSE REPEAL OF THE ACA MANDATE

II. PRESENTATION ON THE ARKANSAS WORKS PROGRAM BY BO RYALL, CEO, ARKANSAS HOSPITALS ASSOCIATION

III. PRESENTATION BY BILLY MCFARLAND, JUDSON COLLEGE IN THE ALABAMA BLACK BELT, ON THEIR ESTABLISHMENT OF A NEW RURAL HOSPITAL

IV. GOV. HUTCHINSON’S PRESENTATION ON THE ARKANSAS WORKS HEALTH CARE PROGRAM

V. GOV. HUTCHINSON’S PRESENTATION ON EDUCATION, JOB CREATION IN THE DELTA, AGRICULTURE AND TRADE

I. Comment the Flurry of Health Care Changes being considered for inclusion in the tax bill now being debated in Washington, DC

As Bo Ryall said in his presentation, there are so many new and constantly changing developments on the health care front that you need to check your E-mail and Twitter accounts every 10 minutes to make sure you’re not out of date. We will note some of the key pending developments, but the substance of the health care presentations at the Oct. 20 Delta Caucus session is still fundamentally valid.

While there is a broad range of positions on this subject, the key conclusion is that we want to preserve the basic gains of health insurance coverage from the Affordable Care Act-including the modified version of it in Arkansas and other states-while making improvements and adjustments in it. Repealing it without a viable alternative in place would be a huge mistake.

For the conference as a whole, we had Gov. Hutchinson, Rep. Crawford, US Sen. John Boozman speaking by video, Rep. French Hill, Alternate Federal Co-Chairman Peter Kinder of the Delta Regional Authority, Chelsea Clinton speaking about the domestic USA programs of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, Dean Todd Shields of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, and grassroots advocates on job creation, health care, education, and women and minority issues.

A total of 131 people attended parts or all of the conference.

Series of proposals being debated in Washington, DC regarding health care: Regarding the current health care debate, the substance of the presentations made at the recent Delta Caucus conference are still valid. Right now there is a vital debate in Congress on the future of the Affordable Care Act. While there is a broad range of views on this subject, most Delta Caucus partners would strongly support preserving the gains made by and improving the Affordable Care Act-including the Arkansas Works Medicaid expansion program that has led to 300,000 Arkansans having health insurance-rather than taking any action to gut the ACA.

In the current tax bill there is consideration regarding a provision that would gut the health care law requirement that most Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty. The Congressional Budget Office analysis revealed that this would leave 13 million Americans uninsured by 2027.

It would be greatly preferable to improve, modify but preserve the Affordable Care Act rather than throwing many people off of the program. We urge all our partners to contact your Members of Congress and urge removal of this provision from the tax bill.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) promoted an ACA stabilization bill in an effort to lessen the impact of repealing the health law’s requirement that all individuals buy health insurance- But unfortunately the Congressional Budget Office reported on Nov. 29 that the stabilization bill would have no impact on its estimate of the large number of Americans who will be left uninsured if the tax bill retains the provision eliminating the ACA requirement that Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty.

The CBO estimates that repealing the mandate would leave 13 million Americans uninsured by 2027, and for the shorter term, 4 million people would lose health coverage bin 2019.

The Delta Caucus encourages pragmatic, bipartisan efforts that are being made in the Senate by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-FL), and others to come up with a compromise that would avoid destroying the gains made by the ACA while trying to make improvements in it. We continue to support those efforts for a reasonable compromise.

There is considerable confusion about the health care provisions in the tax bill-please think about this-a tax bill is supposed to deal with taxes, NOT a massive change in health care law. The provision is wrong and threatens to gut the Affordable Care Act, which would have ominous consequences eventually for the Arkansas Works program in Arkansas and gains from the ACA in other Delta states.

Whatever your viewpoint on this, we would ask that you contact your US senators and representatives in all 8 states and weigh in on this tremendously important issue.

II. Presentation of Bo Ryall, CEO, Arkansas Hospitals Association (AHA) on the Arkansas Works program:

Bo Ryall said that President Trump’s decision not to make the cost sharing reduction payments to insurance companies had an immediate impact in Arkansas.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield had previously applied for new insurance premiums on the marketplace with a 7.8% increase, but after the President’s decision they expanded that to 14.2%.

Ryall said that prior to the President’s decision, in Arkansas most insurers came in with increases under double digits, and “we felt like we had a stable market.” By not making the cost sharing reduction payments, these increases almost doubled in the case of Blue Cross/Blue Shield and more than doubled for two other insurers.

Ryall supported the bipartisan compromise of Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray that would give states greater flexibility to preserve subsidies for low-income people and provide cost sharing reduction payments.

There are many proposals being discussed in Washington, DC and the Delta Caucus continues to urge all our partners to contact their representatives in the House and Senate and ask for a compromise that would preserve the basic gains of the ACA.

Arkansas Works success-307,000 people now receiving health insurance who did not have it before: The AHA CEO said that the Arkansas Works program is the Arkansas version of Medicaid expansion, originally called the Private Option, has clearly been a great success, leading to 307,000 people in the state who are now receiving health insurance that previously did not have insurance.

The reduction in the number of uninsured in Arkansas has decreased from 21% to 9%, the second best improvement in the entire country after Kentucky.

It is great to see two of the Greater Delta Region states in Arkansas and Kentucky (the west Kentucky Delta is an integral part of the region) leading the nation in the reduction in the number of uninsured people.

Preventive services: Ryall said Arkansas Works has allowed people to receive preventive services that they did not receive in the past. By having an insurance card, they can get appointments with a physician so they can get services provided at an earlier date before it becomes an emergency, rather than showing up in emergency rooms for expensive care after the problems had become much worse.

Regarding hospital finances, Ryall said that is crucial for many small hospitals in rural areas that are barely surviving or losing money. Arkansas Works has led to a reduction in uncompensated care for hospitals of $149 million.

Those reductions in costs are very helpful for small rural hospitals that are anchors for the community not only in health care but also in providing good jobs for local areas.

Arkansas Works has come in under budget and is fiscally sound: Ryall emphasized that Arkansas Works has come in under budget, has met all the budget caps set by the federal government and has net budget neutrality. There has been incorrect talk that Arkansas Works costa a lot of money and is over budget, but he stressed that those allegations are simply not true.

In addition to the changes being debated at the federal level, there have also been changes at the state government level that the federal government has not yet approved.

One important change-if approved-would be a reduction in eligibility for Arkansas Works from 138% of the federal poverty level to 100% of the federal poverty level. The Arkansas Department of Human Services estimates that this will have an impact on about 60,000 people in Arkansas beginning next year.

This group of people will transition from the Arkansas Works program to the marketplace. Ryall emphasized that it’s very important to have a stable marketplace and they are not immediately taking away insurance from 60,000 people in January, 2018. The Dept. of Human Services will do the transfers on a rolling basis of about 5,000 per month.

Ryall asked for Delta Caucus partners to help get the word out about this change. Insurers, hospitals, health care providers will be working on informing people about this transition. For this group of people they will still be eligible for subsidized plans on the marketplace, “so we need your help in encouraging people to sign up for these.”

In citing the impact of this transition in a number of Arkansas Delta counties,

–in Craighead County 2,300 people will be moving from Arkansas Works to subsidized plans;

–In Mississippi County the number is 1,000;

–In Crittenden County, 1,200;

–In Jefferson County, 1,500;

–In Phillips County, 532;

–In Desha County, 315.

Ryall stressed that it is crucial to get the word out that these people’s insurance will continue, but it will be different and will cost them a little more.

Work requirement-an important change is a work requirement. All the specifics are not yet known, but one concern is that it should not be too burdensome for people to prove that they have a job. Not everyone has access to computers and the Internet or transportation to get their information in, so Ryall called for a process that will be easy to implement and not a burden on working people.

Concerns about incorrect perceptions about health care, due to all the changes and proposals for changes being debated at both federal and state levels. There is a concern that some people may have erroneously concluded that repeal and replace of the ACA did in fact take place (which of course is not true) and that there are no longer opportunities for Arkansas Works. The supporters of Arkansas Works have gone to bat for the program and have preserved it for many years now, and we intend to do so this time as well.

In an updated communication between the Delta Caucus and Bo Ryall on Nov. 29, he said that some people may not be aware that the provision in the tax bill discussed above would remove the mandate that most Americans have insurance or pay a penalty.

There is some confusion because this is a tax bill, but it contains a provision regarding health care that the CBO indicates would cost 13 million people their health insurance by 2027, as noted above.

Please call your US senators and representatives and urge them to remove this provision from the tax bill.

The open enrollment period this year is much shorter than in the past-only from Nov. 1 to December 15.

The federal government is also not putting the advertising dollars about the program as it did in the past or spending money on navigators that helped enroll people in insurance. This is not out there in full force as it was in the past. Despite these obstacles, Ryall stressed that “we need to spread the word that health care is still available through Healthcare.gov

Arkansas definitely still has insurance options and is fully covered across the state. This is in contrast to some other states where some counties are not covered.

Surveys have indicated that many of the remaining uninsured people believe they can’t afford coverage, but they have not explored their options. Thus, we need to encourage everybody to go to Healthcare.gov and explore their options, because there are different plans through Arkansas Works or subsidized plans that could be helpful.

Ryall closed by saying how important health care is to assure that we have a healthy, productive workforce, and we need our hospitals to continue and prosper so that they can provide essential health care as well as good jobs for the economy.

Ryall congratulated Billy McFarland of Judson College on the unusual and great accomplishment of establishing a new rural hospital.

III. Billy McFarland, Special Assistant to the President of Judson College, Marion, Alabama-on Judson’s establishment of a new rural hospital in the heart of the Alabama Black Belt.

The Alabama Black Belt is not geographically in the Mississippi River Delta region, but this area is historically, culturally, economically and demographically quite similar to the Delta region so we join forces with our colleagues there to advocate for the community and economic development of the eight-state region as a whole.

Billy McFarland is a long-time senior adviser to the Delta Grassroots Caucus. For the past year and a half he has been working with a coalition to establish a new rural hospital in Marion, Alabama in Perry County-one of the poorest counties in America.

McFarland said that many people seem to think that rural hospitals are going by the wayside and they can’t be viable, but as his group researched the hospital project they discovered that rural hospitals are vital not only for the health care they provide their constituents but they can also be an economic engine for development like a college or a business.

McFarland said the Marion hospital will utilize the the Critical Access Hospitals program of the Center of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMA) of the US Dept. of Health and Human Services. This designation for certain rural hospitals was created by Congress in 1997 in response to hospital closures in the 1980s and early 1990s.

McFarland said that unlike Prospective Payment System (PPS), the Critical Access Hospitals provide 101% reimbursement, and that enables them to maintain a solid cash flow and to remain profitable. There is one other similar hospital in Alabama three counties over, and the Marion/Judson College hospital will use their management team as a model.

The Judson project is partnering with an organization that operates seven hospitals in Mississippi and one in Alabama. The Delta Caucus looks forward to the progress of this excellent effort to increase health care opportunities in the heart of the Alabama Black Belt.

On a broader subject, Delta Caucus Director Lee Powell said that Billy McFarland has a longstanding record of working in a pragmatic, bipartisan way with leaders from both parties.

Billy is a moderate Republican and has relationships with Alabama leaders of both parties, including Republican US Senator Richard Shelby and Democratic US Representative Terri Sewell. (He is currently a candidate for the state legislature in Alabama.)

McFarland said that he has worked in rural Alabama for 10 years now, previously as Vice President of the University of West Alabama and now at Judson College, and he believes it is crucial to support a bipartisan compromise on health care such as that of Sen. Alexander and Sen. Murray.

McFarland emphasized that based on his experience in Alabama we need to keep bipartisan compromise proposals in health care in place to help these people rather than a “repeal and replace” approach. He commended Sen. Alexander and other moderate voices who want to improve the ACA while keeping programs in place for health care and reduction in poverty in our region.

IV. Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s presentation on health care

Caucus Director praised Gov. Hutchinson’s leadership on job creation projects in the Delta, education improvements in the public schools, trade, and in particular said that the Arkansas Works program has done more to help people in the east Arkansas Delta than any other initiative, and “it would not have happened without Gov. Hutchinson’s leadership.”

Gov. Hutchinson cites success of Arkansas Works: The governor said that Arkansas has succeeded in maintaining the Arkansas Works program, which is greatly needed in the Delta and the entire state, has helped rural hospitals, expanded health care access in the Delta, and the budget is being carefully managed to pay for it and make it sustainable for the long term.

Hutchinson said he has asked the Trump administration for a waiver so that instead of Arkansas Works premium assistance going to people at 138% of the federal poverty level, it will be reduced to 100% of the federal poverty level in order to concentrate our limited resources from the state perspective to help people who need help the most.

As Bo Ryall had discussed, if Arkansas gets the waiver, then about 60,000 people will move from Arkansas Works Medicaid expansion over to the exchange, with a limited number of people every month rolling off of the Arkansas Works to the exchange to get their health insurance. Under Arkansas Works, people at 138% of the federal poverty level contribute 2% of their income toward their premium, and that’s exactly what is expected on the exchange.

Gov. Hutchinson said “If we can move them smoothly to the exchange there will be a continuity of their health insurance. The idea is not to say, ‘You’re cut off from health insurance.’ The idea is to move them to the exchange, move them up the economic ladder, and concentrate our resources on those that need help the most.” It’s crucial to understand that as Arkansas moves on to the new phase next year.

In response to a question, the governor said he supports the bipartisan compromise supported by Sen. Alexander and others from both parties.

The governor emphasized that he has always held the view that the ACA needs to be replaced with something that is sustainable over the long term, but has never advocated repealing the health care law without knowing where we are going next. He said the Alexander bill (discussed above) fixes a problem that would hurt people if it were not fixed; it’s a good temporary solution until we have a long-term solution in place.

V. Gov. Hutchinson’s presentation on education, job creation in the Delta, agriculture and trade

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Thanks to Delta Grassroots Leaders; & 2nd in Series of Reports on Oct. 19-20 Delta Caucus

Posted on November 23, 2017 at 11:45 AM

This Thanksgiving we would like to express our great appreciation to all the grassroots leaders across the 8-state Greater Delta Region and our network in the Washington, DC area. Your effective advocacy and hard work for the region’s community and economic development will bring a brighter future for our region.

See the website at mdgc.us

For the second in our series of reports on the Oct. 19-20, 2017 Delta Caucus conference in Little Rock, we will summarize the presentations at the opening session, Oct. 19 at the Arkansas State Capitol Rotunda.

The two-day event as a whole featured Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Congressman Rick Crawford, Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton speaking on behalf of the philanthropic, nonpartisan work of the Clinton Foundation, Sen. John Boozman speaking by video on several key Delta issues, Congressman French Hill’s chief of staff, Delta Regional Authority Alternate Federal Co-Chairman Peter Kinder of Missouri, and grassroots advocates from across the 8-state region.

A total of 131 people attended parts or all of the two-day conference.

The report as a whole is lengthy, and we do not expect anyone to read it from beginning to end; rather, please look at the Table of Contents and scroll down to those sections you are most interested in.

In the next two weeks there will be summaries of the Oct. 20 Delta session at the Clinton Library.

We will give brief summaries of the presentations of each one of the speakers. At the opening session at the historic Rotunda of the Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. LIST OF SPEAKERS AT THE OCT. 19 OPENING SESSION AT ARKANSAS STATE CAPITOL ROTUNDA

II. SUMMARY OF PRESENTATIONS FROM JOB CREATION/INFRASTRUCTURE ISSUES SPEAKERS

III. AN ANALYSIS ON THE ROLE OF THE DELTA CAUCUS, A PRIVATE SECTOR GRASSROOTS ADVOCACY ORGANIZATION

IV. SUMMARY OF SPEAKERS ON BEST PRACTICES FOR COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

V. EXAMPLES OF PROGRESS ON KEY LEGISLATIVE AND OTHER POLICY ACTION INITIATIVES

VI. APPRECIATION FOR SPONSORS

I. LIST OF OPENING SESSION SPEAKERS

We opened with a series of speakers on best practices in regional community and economic development, followed by a series of speakers on job creation and infrastructure:

Speakers who mostly focused on job creation and infrastructure improvements included:

–Alternate Federal Co-Chairman Peter Kinder of the Delta Regional Authority from Cape Girardeau, Missouri;

–City Manager Scott Meyer of Cape Girardeau, Missouri;

–Mayor Chuck Espy of Clarksdale, Mississipppi;

–State Senator Eddie Cheatham, southeast Arkansas;

–Mayor Shirley Washington, Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Best practices in community and economic development speakers included:

–Janelle Jenkins, Chief Operating Officer of KIPP Delta Public Schools in Helena-West Helena, Blytheville and Forrest City,

–Erica McFadden, SNAP coordinator for the Arkansas Food Bank (an affiliate of the national Feeding America network);

–Jennifer Johnson, Director of Public Policy for So uthern Bancorp Community Partners based in Madison, Mississippi;

–State Rep. Warwick Sabin of Little Rock, Senior Director for USA Domestic Programs, Winrock International;

–Sally Heinz, CEO of the Memphis Metropolitan InterFaith Association, one of the major nonprofits in the Memphis, Tennessee area.

II. SUMMARY OF INFRASTRUCTURE/JOB CREATION SPEAKERS

Peter Kinder is President Trump’s new appointee as Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority, was given the largest amount of time at the opening session because this was our first opportunity to hear from him. This is one of the two Presidential appointees at the agency. Chris Caldwell of US Sen. John Boozman’s staff in Little Rock is the nominee for Federal Co-Chairman and is expected to be confirmed by the Senate fairly soon.

The Delta Caucus commended both of these leaders as excellent choices to head up the agency.

Peter Kinder is from the heart of the southeast Missouri Delta in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and his family has lived in the region for many generations. He expressed great appreciation for the opportunity to get to know many grassroots advocates from across the region at the Delta Caucus. He said he plans to tour the eight-state region.

Kinder spoke about the DRA’s role in promoting infrastructure and economic development projects in the Delta. He clearly demonstrated a deep dedication to his native region, at one point saying, “We will be the voice of those who are too often forgotten about.”

Cuts in DRA administrative expenses over $500,000: Alternate Federal Co-Chairman Kinder has already made a positive impact at the agency, having identified more than $500,000 in administrative expenses that can be cut out and used for productive development projects. This is excellent to keep administrative costs at a minimum.

Kinder has a distinguished resume as former Lt. Governor and state senator from Missouri, with a background in practicing law and in business. He was very warmly received by the group.

Director Lee Powell and other Delta Caucus senior partners called on all our partners across the eight states to contact their Members of Congress in support of the DRA’s budget.

President Trump had earlier called for eliminating the DRA, the Appalachian Regional Commission and other regional economic development agencies, but we have allies in all eight Delta states, Appalachia and other regions who are totally opposed to this proposal. We believe that these agencies are a useful supplement to the much larger scale federal departments like USDA, US DOT, Health and Human Services, Labor, Commerce, etc. and state government agencies. They have strong Congressional support and we have defeated efforts to eliminate them every time in the past and we plan to do so this time.

III. A note on the different roles of the DRA and the Delta Grassroots Caucus:

Since we have highlighted DRA Alternate Federal Co-Chairman Peter Kinder’s excellent presentation, we would like to emphasize that the Delta Caucus is a private sector, grassroots advocacy coalition and is completely independent of all government agencies, including the DRA. The senior leaders of the Delta Caucus have complete freedom of action to engage in lobbying for broad-minded causes for the good of the region as a whole.

DRA federal executive branch staff, like all federal executive staff, are prohibited from lobbying.

The Delta Caucus can engage in lobbying and other activities across the full spectrum of economic and community development policy. The DRA has a more restricted role based on its statutory mission to promote economic development in the Delta region. We support the DRA as an institution but it is one among many constructive programs that we support.

The Delta Caucus is incorporated as a regular corporation and does not have any lobbying restrictions like a 501c3 does. Nonprofits can engage in advocacy as much as they like, which is strictly providing factual information about major government programs. Lobbying is different, because it is defined as referring to a specific pending legislative or other governmental action, urging the Member of Congress or other official to support or oppose it, suggesting key Congressional committees to contact in favor of their position, and otherwise engaging in direct political action in the spirit of taking part in the democratic process.

Avoiding the kind of difficulty that Tea Party groups and other 501c4 organizations experienced from the IRS: We are also not incorporated as a 501c(4), to avoid the kinds of unfair pressures the IRS engaged in against Tea Party groups in the worst cases, and also there was some bias against a smaller number of 501c4 organizations that certain IRS officials deemed too “liberal.”

We believed even before these cases that some IRS officials are biased against certain nonprofit entities based on their philosophical point of view, and this is of course utterly inappropriate. We did not want to be looking over our shoulder at the IRS wondering if they would see any of our positions as “politically incorrect” as a nonprofit. Therefore we incorporated as a regular corporation (technically small business corporation, although of course no one at the Delta Caucus has any expectation of making any money from our work other than paying expenses) so as to be totally free of any unethical pressures from any IRS officials. To put it briefly, it’s impossible for the IRS to threaten to take away our tax-exempt status, because we do not have tax-exempt status in the first place.

We opposed the IRS’ bias against the Tea Party groups or anyone else based on their freedom of expression. We are glad to see that the IRS officials involved have been duly punished. However, we are still wary of potential bullying from the IRS, and want to maintain complete freedom of action from that agency as well as other government agencies. We are a private sector, grassroots volunteer group.

The Delta Caucus is very careful to only engage in lobbying occasionally for clearly meritorious, broad-based causes-such as maintaining USDA programs for nutrition, rural development and agriculture, or the smaller scale but still constructive DRA programs. Only Delta Caucus senior officials are directly responsible for taking these positions, and many of our nonprofit or other colleagues of course do not engage in lobbying.

This is an explanatory note because sometimes people mistakenly think we are directly affiliated with the DRA. We are a private sector grassroots coalition and they are a federal/state government agency. The two entities are separate and independent.

CONTINUATION OF JOB CREATION/INFRASTRUCTURE SPEAKERS:

Peter Kinder was introduced by his friend and colleague SCOTT MEYER, CITY MANAGER OF CAPE GIRARDEAU, MISSOURI. Meyer has known Peter Kinder for many years and they have worked on constructive projects in their native city together. The City of Cape Girardeau and the DRA have worked on a number of successful economic development projects in Cape Girardeau, where the local economy has been moving in a positive direction in recent years.

City Manager Meyer echoed the feedback we have received from our long-time colleague Mike Marshall, Director of the Sikeston Regional Chamber of Commerce and the former DRA Alternate Federal Co-Chairman, that Peter Kinder has excellent professional credentials and has a deep commitment to the Delta region.

MAYOR SHIRLEY WASHINGTON OF PINE BLUFF, Arkansas gave a presentation about the dynamic recent efforts for downtown revitalization in her historic Delta community. Mayor Washington was a key leader in the Go Forward Pine Bluff initiative, in which the city’s residents passed a local tax to fund efforts to improve the city’s community and economic development.

The Go Forward Pine Bluff revitalization projects will be moving forward because of Pine Bluff voters’ having approved a five-eighths sales tax increase, Estimates indicate that the tax is expected to generate approximately $31.5 million over seven years. They plan to raise another $19 ti $20 million from grants and gifts.

The project is a public-private partnership intended to improve the community through investments in education, quality of life, economic development and infrastructure.

The Delta Regional Authority awarded the City of Pine Bluff $1 million as part of the public-private partnership.

There are many initiatives involved in the Pine Bluff Go Forward initiative. Examples include a community garden at the former Davis Hospital site that is a partnership between the University of Arkansas Agriculture Extension Office’s Pia Woods and Mayor Washington.

Another example is the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville’s community design center for establishing a downtown master plan. The initiative held listening sessions to get feedback from Pine Bluff residents, and they are developing an extensive municipal master plan as part of the downtown revitalization effort.

Mayor Washington has received a great deal of positive feedback for her leadership on the downtown revitalization project, which by all accounts has this large and vital community headed in the right direction.

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First In Series of Updates on Oct. 19-20 Delta Caucus: Thanks to Nucor & Northeast Arkansas Group

Posted on October 30, 2017 at 11:10 AM

The Delta Caucus will be sending out a series of updates and “thank yous” to the many people across the region who made the Oct. 19-20 Delta conference one of our best events ever, beginning with thanking Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas and the large and dynamic Mississippi County contingent at the conference.

We had a total of 127 people who were there for parts or all of the conference, and it will take a few weeks to thank everyone in group and individual messages.

We appreciate all the local areas’ contributions to the conference, and we will be sending out reports thanking each one of them over the next few weeks. There is a great deal of follow-up work to these conferences and it takes some time.

The Mississippi County contingent of 11 people was unusually large for one area, including Blytheville Mayor James Sanders, Joyce Sanders, Randy Henderson of Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas, Rep. Monte Hodges of Blytheville, Cilla Johnson, Jackie Burton, Cecil McDonald, and Shirley Pulliam of Mississippi County AR Economic Opportunity Commission, Tameka Jennings of the Great River Economic Development Foundation, Blanche Hunt and Pacey Bowens of Arkansas Northeastern College.

State Sen. David Wallace of Leachville was scheduled to be there as a speaker, but his disaster relief company served Houston, Florida and was serving in Puerto Rico at the time of the conference who were harmed by the terrible series of storms that hit those regions. We admire Sen. Wallace’s service in the legislature and for the victims of the storms and look forward to getting an update from him upon his return to Arkansas.

Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas was our leading sponsor and was represented by one of our key senior partners for the Delta Grassroots Caucus, Randy Henderson. Nucor Steel has the world’s most efficient steel plant right there in the heart of the Delta in Blytheville, Arkansas.

Nucor is truly a great role model for the region. They create and maintain a large number of jobs, pay very good wages, they never lay off workers even in times of recession, and have generous education and other benefits for their workers. They engage in a series of community-oriented projects for the Delta and are a longstanding and absolutely vital senior partner for our regional coalition.

Oct. 26-28 Nucor celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Nucor Hickman plant in Blytheville

On October 26 – 28, there were multiple events to celebrate Nucor Hickman Steel’s 25th anniversary in Blytheville, Arkansas.

On Thursday, October 26 from noon until 2 p.m., a formal recognition event in their new Pavilion. All 25 year team members were recognized at this event along with some special guests that include past general managers, customers and state and federal representatives. A great event with a lot of people in attendance that have helped make Hickman a success for 25 years.

Those attending: Current Nucor Executives: John Ferriola, CEO Ladd Hall, EVP Chad Utermark. EVP

Past Nucor Hickman General Managers Mike Parrish, Dave Chase, Sam Commella

Nucor General Managers that started at Nucor Hickman: John Farris, Jay Henderson, Bob McCracken, Drew Wilcox

On Friday, October 27 and Saturday, October 28, Family Fun Days–a great gathering for many families in the Mississippi County area.

Mississippi County Economic Opportunity Commission: We would like to thank the great Mississippi County nonprofit for their excellent networking and logistics support at the conference including Priscilla Johnson, Cecil McDonald, Jackie Burton and Shirley Pulliam.

MissCo EOC is continuing to be one of our strongest supporters in the great tradition of the late Sam Scruggs, long-time executive director of the organization who passed away earlier this year. His force for good continues in the many people he trained at the nonprofit and their constructive, ongoing work in helping the people of northeast Arkansas.

We were glad that Mayor James Sanders took time from his heavy workload in Blytheville to support the conference. He is doing a great job as Mayor of Blytheville and we were also glad his wife Joyce Sanders could join us. They were very helpful for the dialogue and networking at the event.

Rep. Monte Hodges of Blytheville was there, and we would like to thank him in particular for his support of the Arkansas Works Medicaid expansion program in Arkansas. He also indicated that he plans to join the constructive effort of Sen. Joyce Elliott and Sen. Hendren to form a race relations legislative caucus in Arkansas to promote a candid dialogue about the state of race relations in Arkansas.

Tamika Jenkins represented the Great River Economic Development Foundation, an organization that does a great deal of constructive work in promoting economic progress in northeast Arkansas. They have been regular participants over the years for the Delta Caucus and their support is greatly appreciated.

We were glad to have two senior officials from Arkansas Northeast College: Vice President for Community Relations Blanche Hunt and Vice President Pacey Bowens. Education is crucial for promoting community and economic development, and ANC has a wide variety of activities for bringing more educational opportunities to the area. I was glad to be able to sit at the table on Oct. 19 at our dinner at the Holiday Inn hotel restaurant with Vice President Hunt, Mayor Sanders, Randy Henderson of Nucor, and other Blytheville leaders and I learned a lot from that session. Blytheville is clearly one of the communities in our region that enjoys dynamic leadership.

Mississippi County has one of the largest populations among the heartland Delta counties and all the organizations and leaders there are promoting a brighter future for northeast Arkansas.

We would like to once again thank our sponsors. Below is the sponsors appreciation that was on the big placard on display throughout the conference, on the website, on the agendas distributed at the conference, and on this and other newsletters.

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

Sponsors for the Delta Caucus, Oct. 19-20, 2017, Little Rock, Arkansas

LEAD SPONSOR

Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas

MAJOR CO-SPONSORS

Mississippi County AR Economic Opportunity Commission, Blytheville, Arkansas

J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville

SPONSORS

Illinois Municipal League

Winrock International

Millie Atkins, Co-Chair, Economic Equality Caucus, and Community Leader based in Monroe, Louisiana

Sikeston, Missouri Regional Chamber of Commerce

The Arkansas Municipal League

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas

American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas

Delta Grassroots Partners

Last but not least we would like to thank the hundreds of grassroots partners across the region and the Washington, DC area for their many contributions of registration fees, annual membership dues and other voluntary contributions in the amounts of $125, $100, $75, $50 and $25. As a grassroots sector private coalition, we need to have a diversified financial base with large numbers of small contributions, and we could not do our work without these very numerous contributions.