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.

Poll of Lower Income Americans Shows Support for Strong US Government Programs to Fight Hunger and Poverty

Posted on November 27, 2020 at 11:44 AM

“Poll of Lower-Income Americans Shows Support for US Government Programs to Fight Hunger and Poverty in the midst of Rising Poverty during the Pandemic”

An in-depth poll disseminated by the national anti-hunger and poverty organization Hunger Free America found that many lower to mid-income people lost income due to the pandemic, have low-paying jobs and can’t find better paying ones, and have recently lost family income due to illness or disabilities.

The poll found a broad consensus among people from rural as well as suburban and urban areas making less than $50,000 in favor of increasing the federal minimum wage, guaranteeing living wage jobs to all adults, increasing spending on SNAP nutrition programs, and eliminate bureaucratic rules in which people lose all their benefits as soon as they work more hours or get a raise.

The poll was conducted by Kupersmit Research, a nationally recognized polling organization, on behalf of Hunger Free America, whose CEO, Joel Berg is a partner and frequent participant at Delta Caucus events.

Support for expanding the SNAP program cuts across both rural and urban America as well as gaining strong support from Republicans, Independents, and Democrats alike among lower income people, the poll found.

“People in Arkansas and the rest of the 8-state Greater Delta Region owe a debt of gratitude to Hunger Free America for continuing to shed the light of truth on rising hunger and poverty during the pandemic, as well as the reality that lower-income people strongly support policies like increased SNAP benefits, higher minimum wage, and elimination of red tape obstructing eligible people from obtaining benefits,” said Delta Caucus director Lee Powell.

Key findings: 73 % of those polled wanted the US government to take steps necessary to end US hunger.

Kathy Webb of Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance said, “The results of this poll confirm what the Alliance has long said: Raising SNAP benefits is imperative. Reducing barriers to accessing federal nutrition programs is imperative. The charitable food network, called on to do more than ever, cannot alone meet the needs of the 160,000 MORE Arkansans struggling to access nutritious food.”

Asked about the statement, “The U.S. government should enact the policies and programs necessary to end U.S. hunger by ensuring that all Americans can afford and access sufficient, nutritious, culturally compatible food:”

–45 percent strongly agreed, 28 percent somewhat agreed, five percent somewhat disagreed, and two percent strongly disagreed (14% did not take a position). Only 7% either somewhat or strongly disagreed.

Two thirds (67%) agreed that “If the U.S. government decided to spend as much as necessary, we could eliminate U.S. poverty, homelessness, and hunger.,” including 41% who strongly agreed and 26% who somewhat agreed (15% neither agreed nor disagreed, 7% somewhat disagreed, and 5% strongly disagreed).

The poll clearly indicates that low-income Americans believe that the government could choose to solve these problems, if leaders made it a priority to do so.

Support for Domestic national service: The poll also found strong support for reviving the spirt of the original G.I. Bill by enabling any Americans willing to perform a year of domestic national serve to receive a large post-service voucher to pay for higher education, to buy a first home, or to start a business.

Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a national anti-hunger direct service and advocacy organization, said: “Even before the pandemic, nearly one in five Americans lived near or below the poverty line, pushing the great American middle class closer and closer to extinction.”

Berg stressed that rather than assuming we knew what people in poverty or near it favored for policies to fight poverty, they commissiond an objective poll. In the last election, virtually the only thing that united the most pro-Trump rural counties and the most pro-Biden cities was high levels of poverty and low levels of income. Instead of assuming we knew what people in and near poverty were going through and what policies they wanted, we asked them.

It’s held a mirror up to America and forced us to confront the hard truth that we are more unequal right now than ever before. As more families are pushed to the breaking point, this research points towards a concrete policy agenda that Republicans and Democrats alike should coalesce around as we work to expand economic mobility and opportunity for all.”

Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said, “Today, hunger, poverty and inequality are all on the rise across America. This new poll not only identifies the barriers low-income Americans face to getting ahead, it also shows there is broad agreement on the policy solutions that would give them a hand up during this difficult time.”

Rep. Fudge–who is widely considered one of the front-runners to be President-Elect Joe Biden’s Secretary at USDA that administers the SNAP program, said, “From raising the minimum wage and ensuring access to health care to boosting SNAP benefits, these are commonsense solutions that Congress can act on now to help struggling families put food on the table. Rising hunger in America is a moral and policy failure – addressing it should never be a partisan issue.”

For those interested in more specifics, detailed poll findings are listed below:

ADDENDUM–Detailed Poll Findings Among Americans Ages 18-64:

–· In response to the question, “which generally has to do more with why a person in the U.S. is rich?”,

–64 percent said “they have had more advantages in life than most other people,” 22 percent said “they have worked harder than most other people,” and 14 percent weren’t sure.

–· In response to the question, “which generally has to do more with why a person in the U.S. lives in poverty?”,

–65 percent said “They have faced more obstacles in life than most other people, 22 percent said “they have not worked as hard as most other people,” and 14 percent said they were not sure.

–· In response to the question, “thinking about most people who live in or near poverty, which of these do you agree with the most?”,

–35 percent said “they face too many obstacles to ever get ahead,” 36 percent said “they could get ahead, but they need help from government and society,” 16 percent said “they could get ahead on their own if they worked harder and saved more,” and 16 percent were not sure.

· In response to the question, “Do you think that having hope for the future makes a difference? Which of these best describes your situation?”,

–29 percent said “if I had more hope that I could get ahead in the future, I might work a little harder and save a bit more,” 49 percent said “I am already working as hard as I can and saving as much as possible, so, hope for the future has nothing to do with it,” eight percent said “I don’t try to work harder or save more because there is really no chance I will ever get ahead,” and 14 percent didn’t know.

–· In response to the question, “Thinking about government benefits programs that are available to help people who are struggling to make ends meet In general, do you think these programs give people:”

–22 percent of respondents said “Not enough to survive,” 37 percent said “Enough to survive, but not enough to make ends meet,” 19 percent said “Enough to make ends meet, but with a lot of stress,” 10 percent said “Enough to make ends meet, but with minimal stress,” four percent said “More than enough to make ends meet,” and 8 percent were not sure.

Delta Caucus Endorses President-Elect Biden's Plans for Economic Equality, Nutrition and Rural Development, in Contrast to Trump

Posted on November 17, 2020 at 11:28 AM

“Delta Caucus Endorses Biden Transition Team Plans to Fight Hunger and Poverty”

The Delta Caucus endorses President-Elect Biden’s plans to expand funding and access for job creation at good wages, SNAP, WIC, and other nutrition benefits, and a broad range of initiatives for economically distressed populations, in contrast to President Trump’s opposition to these programs.

“Biden’s bipartisan plan for fighting poverty and hunger provides a welcome contrast to President Trump’s radical departure from the traditional Republican support for SNAP, going back to President Nixon and Bob Dole’s staunch support of food stamps and the many Republicans in Congress today who still support SNAP and believe no American should go hungry.” Delta Caucus Director Lee Powell said.

The Delta Caucus wholeheartedly endorses the Biden plans for a 15% increase in SNAP benefits, support for the Pandemic EBT, rolling back of Trump administration efforts to obstruct people from gaining SNAP benefits, improving USDA Rural Development housing, infrastructure and small business programs.

Trump has proposed regulations that would terminate or sharply cut SNAP benefits to 4 million Americans, according to research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“The Delta Caucus commends President-Elect Biden’s appointment of Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond as Senor Advisor to the President and Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Rep. Richmond has previously been a speaker at Delta Caucus events in Washington, DC, and it is great to have a leader from the heart of the Delta in such a high-level White House post,” Powell said.

Said Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a nationwide nonprofit group: “Hunger and poverty are serious problems in every state in the nation, but are particularly dire in Arkansas and the entire Mississippi Delta Region. That’s why we are so encouraged that the Biden/Harris Administration has pledged to place a serious focus on ensuring all Americans have access to affordable, nutritious food and that we boost economic opportunity for all.”

“President Trump has departed from the traditional Republican support for SNAP, going back to President Nixon and Bob Dole’s staunch support of food stamps and the many Republicans in Congress today who still support SNAP and believe no American should go hungry. We will soon have a President who will restore the bipartisan support for anti-hunger and poverty initiatives rather than the obstructionism that President Trump continues to spew,” Powell said.

Harvey Joe Sanner, president of American Ag Movement of Arkansas based in Des Arc, said “In the Arkansas Delta we look with great anticipation to the Biden administration’s constructive plans for job creation at good wages, support for lower to middle income populations in areas like ours that have too often lagged behind economically. The Biden-Harris plans to expand USDA nutrition and rural development programs, implement a broad range of initiatives to fight hunger and poverty are huge improvements over the government welfare for the wealthy under President Trump.”

Kathy Webb, Executive Director of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, said “The AR Hunger Relief Alliance is concerned about the rapid rise in food insecurity in Arkansas since March, particularly among children. We look forward to working with the incoming administration on our priority issues, which include advocating for an increase in SNAP benefits, continuing P-EBT and USDA waivers for school meals and out of school programs, and removing barriers to access to federal nutrition programs. The Alliance is optimistic the Biden Harris administration will put into place policies and programs discussed during the campaign.”

The Delta Caucus endorses a range of initiatives supported by President-Elect Biden and Vice-President Elect Harris to combat the hunger, poverty and health crises our economically distressed region and the nation are now facing, with 43 million Americans now receiving SNAP–6 million more than in April 2020 when the pandemic hit. Census data indicates that four in 10 households struggle afford such basics as food and medical care.

–Increase SNAP benefits by 15%, support the Pandemic EBT program, and roll back Trump administration administrative rules that would have added layers of red tape to work requirements in trying to prevent people from obtaining SNAP benefits, which in addition to fighting hunger generate about $1.70 in economic activity for every $1 in SNAP spending;

–Supporting economic opportunity initiatives to create livable wage jobs such as Small Business, USDA Rural Development, Labor, and a reformed version of Opportunity Zones to make sure that lower income people benefit and attract investment to economically distressed areas;

–Strong unemployment benefits, relief and economic stimulus until the recession adds and we have a solid recovery; Support for Medicaid expansion, Obamacare, mask-wearing and social distancing to combat the pandemic as the main cause of the recession;

–Support the Biden transition team’s plan to aid small and medium-sized farmers, roll back Trump tariffs that encouraged retaliatory tariffs on farm exports, and implement then Sen. Harris’ plan announced earlier this year for a $100 billion rural economic recovery plan a SNAP for Kids Act that would raise food assistance for school-age children by $42 a month, expand funding for the Health Foods Financing Initiative that improves access to nutritious produce, especially in rural areas where grocery stores are in many cases sparse;

–Major infrastructure expansion program in transportation, housing, broadband and other infrastructure to create jobs and repair our deteriorating infrastructure.


Ben Burkett, an African American family farmer and owner of B and B Farms in Petal, Mississippi, said, We’re pleased by President-Elect Biden’s constructive positions for lower to middle income families, agriculture, infrastructure, rural broadband, and look forward to working with the new administration.”

Wilson Golden is a senior Delta Caucus adviser with multiple strong credentials: a Clinton administration Presidential appointee, board member of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation in Mississippi, Biden delegate to the Democratic Convention, and native Mississippian now living in an Appalachian county in Georgia, said “I am enthusiastic about President-Elect Biden’s leadership on poverty and hunger issues for economically struggling regions like my native Mississippi Delta and Appalachia, including aid for small and medium-sized farmers. Having been raised on a family farm in Mississippi, I applaud the transition team’s support for the Healthy Foods Financial Initiative that is especially helpful for providing access to nutritious produce in rural areas where grocery stores are often few and far between.”

“Many low to middle-income families across Louisiana and the entire Delta region have lost jobs, wages, health care, their small business, and the ability to feed themselves due to this pandemic. We feel hopeful in the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to the critical support and protection of families, racial equity, and the economic recovery of our communities.” said Millie Atkins, community leader based in Monroe, Louisiana and veteran Delta regional advocate.

Mayor Kevin Smith of Helena sounded an upbeat note about the upcoming administration, saying “I welcome a new opportunity to address our problems in the Delta on hunger and poverty as Biden and Harris set forth in their campaign, in addition to their longstanding records of concern for economic issues in rural America.”

Recommendations for Biden-Harris Transition on Economic Opportunity, Health & Diversity in the Delta & Similar Regions

Posted on November 13, 2020 at 01:59 PM


From: Delta Grassroots Caucus and Economic Equality Caucus

To: Biden-Harris Transition Team

Subject: Policies for Economic Opportunity, Race and Gender Diversity in the Biden Administration

The Delta Caucus partners support the Biden-Harris Transition Team’s focus on hunger, poverty and diversity issues as we fight the ongoing pandemic/recession. Many of our recommendations are similar to what the Biden-Harris team is planning. This is in the bipartisan spirit of working with the new administration to promote economic opportunity.

The Delta Grassroots Caucus/Economic Equality Caucus recommends this short list of key priorities for economic recovery, health, and diversity for economically distressed populations in predominantly rural regions like the Greater Mississippi Delta, Appalachia, Northern Border, Great Plains, Southeast Crescent, and Southwest Border. We are grassroots advocates for economic equality and diversity across the country. We endorse the strong concerns and policy positions for lower income Americans of President-Elect Biden and Vice-President Elect Harris.

1) Economic Recovery and Workforce Development

Job creation and retention at good wages: this includes strong funding and support for Small Business Administration, Labor, USDA Rural Development small business programs, and other major federal programs, New Markets tax credit, initiatives like rural Empowerment Zones and a reformed version of Opportunity Zones to provide tax incentives for investing in low-income areas, Community Development Financial Institutions and other progressive economic initiatives.

Strong unemployment benefits, economic stimulus and relief to promote economic recovery see vulnerable populations for a strong economic recovery through the Covid-19/recession. Education and workforce investment–Strong K-12 funding and support for public education, including greater opportunities for virtual learning and policies for aiding lower income families to gain access to the Internet. Expanded aid to cut the exorbitant costs for higher education that are blocking the career paths of so many people nowadays and/or saddling them with huge debt;

Environmentally friendly agriculture focused on small to medium-sized farmers, ending tariffs that invite retaliation against farm exports, and opening up new trade markets across the globe.

Rural economic opportunity package for $100 billion: We endorse a policy similar to that proposed by then US Sen. Kamala Harris earlier this year for a $100 billion package for rural America, a SNAP for Kids Act that would raise food assistance for school-age children by $42 a month, expand funding for the Health Foods Financing Initiative that improves access to nutritious produce, especially in rural areas where grocery stores are in many cases sparse.

Increased funding for Delta Regional Authority, Appalachian Regional Commission, Southeast Crescentm Northern Border Regional Commission, Southwest Border Regional Commission, Great Plains, Denali and other commissions serving economically distressed regions. All of these commissions are under-funded or in some cases have been authorized but not funded and exist only on paper. These regions need special aid due to their chronic poverty levels and they need to be supported and funded.

2) Health Care and Nutrition in the Pandemic

Support for Obamacare and health care for those without adequate insurance, and strong policies for mask-wearing, social distancing and broad distribution of vaccines when they are available–this is always crucial for a region that has such high rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other maladies, but even moreso now. Of course in a diverse region like the Delta we are doubly concerned about the disproportionately high virus rates for minorities;

USDA SNAP, WIC, school meals and other nutrition programs: with regions like the Delta, Appalachia, Southwest Border, Southeast Crescent and Rust Belt suffering skyrocketing food insecurity in the country, we are calling for a 15% increase in SNAP funding, strong support for the pandemic EBT program, rolling back of the Trump policies making it harder for people to gain SNAP and other benefits they are eligible for, and making WIC an entitlement so that it finally gets solid funding over the long term; We strongly endorse the policy recommendations for hunger, poverty and diversity presented by CEO Joel Berg of Hunger Free America.

Increase the income cutoff for SNAP eligibility from the current 130% of the federal poverty line to 200% of the federal poverty line. End the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the improved nutritional standards for school meals and other food aid championed by former First Lady Michelle Obama and previous Congresses.

USDA should extend the DSNAP program that allows flexibility in the context of disasters to the current pandemic.

3) Racial and Gender Equity

Women and minority issues–women are hit worst by job losses in the pandemic recession, and minorities are hit worst in the number of virus cases. Moreover, low-income people tend to not have as strong access to affordable quality health care. We must have equal pay for women doing the same work as men.

Restoring, protecting and expanding upon the Voting Rights Act and other gains of the civil rights movement, major increases in funding and stature of the Minority Business Development Agency, equal access and opportunity in federal procurement and employment across the federal government, are among the top priorities. The CDFI, New Markets Tax Credit and other initiatives cited in the jobs/economic equality section will provide major benefit for African Americans and Latinos who have lower income and job opportunity.

Police reform, combating racial violence and bigotry—We need to acknowledge that most police officers are non-violent enforcers of the law. This truth was tragically driven home recently when an exemplary officer, Kevin Collins—who happened to be African American—was killed while engaging in criminal investigation in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

While we appreciate the work of the great majority of the police, we do have a recurring dilemma of police violence against blacks. We support reforms such as banning chokeholds and similarly dangerous actions, requiring officers to restrain other officers when they see them being abusive, emphasis on scaling down and defusing rather than escalating tense situations, firing, criminal prosecution where appropriate and other stern punishments for officers who engage in violence or racial slurs, creating a national registry for police officers with abusive records, and last but not least, we must assure higher pay for law enforcement officers. They need to be well paid if we are going to attract high quality officers.

4) Infrastructure and Climate Change

Infrastructure expansion program to create jobs and repair our deteriorating infrastructure: we need a major investment in housing, broadband, transportation and other infrastructure in US Dept. of Transportation, USDA Rural Development housing, utilities, and other infrastructure, Housing and Urban Development for struggling inner city areas across the country.

Climate change and investments in biofuels, solar, wind and renewable energy: Many economically distressed regions like the Delta, Southwest Border and Appalachia have great potential for producing biofuels, and the nation as a whole must make great investments in solar, wind, and other renewable energy to transition away from fossil fuels that cause health problems and climate change in the form of much greater numbers of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other natural disasters to which the Greater Delta Region suffers from more than most regions. In addition to the vital environmental impact, renewable energy has tremendous economic potential for job creation over the long term. This is a national and international problem and we have to make this transition now.

Environmentally friendly buildings and housing: We enthusiastically endorse President-Elect Biden’s plan to upgrade 4 million buildings and weatherize 2 million homes over 4 years, creating at least 1 million good-paying jobs with the option of union membership; spur the building retrofit and efficient-appliance manufacturing supply chain by funding direct cash rebates and low-cost financing to upgrade and electrify home appliances and install more efficient windows, which will cut residential energy bills. and in housing spurring the construction of 1.5 million sustainable homes and housing units.

USDA Rural Housing Service programs and other initiatives promoting home-ownership should be expanded: We call for substantial tax credits to help families buy their first homes and increase funding for repairs of affordable rental housing, as well as construction of new properties through USDA Rural Housing Service Multi-Family Direct Loans and Single Family Direct Loans Programs. Redlining and other discriminatory practices in the housing market should be abolished.

Greater Delta Region Partners Report Stagnation or Worsening of Economic and Virus Issues, Nov. 1, 2020

Posted on November 02, 2020 at 12:15 PM

Most of the Greater Delta Region continues to have higher rates of unemployment and Covid-19 cases than most non-Delta areas of their states and most other regions of the country. Latest reports from Delta Caucus grassroots leaders from across the region are mostly negative on both the economic and health care fronts.

Most Delta counties in Arkansas continued to be worse than the state and national averages: Phillips County at 10.1% unemployment rate, Mississippi County at 10.4%, Chicot at 12.4%, Crittenden at 10.2%, Jefferson County at 10.1%, St. Francis at 9.1%, Lee at 9.0%, and Desha at 8.5%.

Mayor Kevin Smith of Helena said “The recession and the pandemic have actually gotten worse recently. The viruses have spiked.”

Arkansas reported on Nov. 2 a record high of 33 deaths, record of 10,420 active virus cases, for a total of 1,958 deaths and 113,057 cases in the pandemic.

The diverse, economically distressed neighborhoods in Little Rock are similar to and adjacent to the east Arkansas heartland Delta, and Pulaski County had a high 9.5% rate.

The Delta Caucus asks all our partners in Arkansas and the other seven Delta states to urge elected officials to provide strong unemployment relief, continue higher SNAP nutrition benefits for the duration of the pandemic, support Medicaid and Medicare funding, and job creation and retention initiatives through the major state and federal agencies like Small Business Administration, Labor, New Markets Tax Credit, CDFIs and other progressive employment programs.

“We would urge our elected officials to base their assessments of the pandemic on science and the facts, and to do everything possible to promote mask wearing and social distancing. We have plenty of people in our region who support President Trump, but we would urge the President to give a realistic assessment of the coronavirus and the economy, which in most areas are both either stagnating or getting worse,” Caucus Director Lee Powell said.

Annette Dove, executive director of the TOPPS nonprofit based in Pine Bluff, said “things are rough here. A lot of people lost their jobs, and we are giving more and more support in food.” TOPPS is providing food to about 400 people now. Jefferson County’s unemployment rate is 10.1% in the September, 2020 data.

Dove said that some people who lost their jobs are also at risk of losing their housing. TOPPS is still functioning, although it closed twice, first when the pandemic broke out and then after a number of infections at a nearby school.

Some east Arkansas counties did fare better than the counties already cited ranging from 8% to 12.4%. Woodruff’s jobless rate was 6.4%, Bradley was 6.1%, and Prairie County had a relatively low rate (for the recession) at 5.8%.

Harvey Joe Sanner, president of American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas based in Des Arc, said there were some bright spots in his local area. For example, a home decor company, Guess and Company, employs 75 people and is doing well. Many small businesses are staying open, and the car lots are doing well–apparently because people want to avoid mass transit during the pandemic. Agriculture in his area was “not rosy” but was looking better.

On the negative side, Sanner said employees as well as residents of a local nursing home tested positive for the virus in the last several days, causing serious concern about a looming spike in the pandemic in their area.

Caucus Director Lee Powell said the reports across the region were largely pessimistic as the virus counts stay too high and a strong recovery is not developing.

Arkansas epidemiologist Jennifer Dillaha was quoted in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as saying that the high level of virus transmissions to people who do not follow guidelines about wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced on July 16 that residents were required to wear face coverings in public when social distancing could not be achieved, after earlier having not supported a mandate.

Louisiana suffers from unprecedented levels of hunger in the pandemic, unemployment that is still high at 8.1% although lower than the modern-era high of 14.5% in April, 2020. One in 5 adults with children in the state could not afford enough food to eat from mid-August to mid-September.

African Americans and Hispanics suffer disproportionately from the pandemic/recession. Minorities tend to have higher representation in front-line jobs like child care or retail sales and are more likely to have lost their jobs. In Louisiana, blacks make up 30% of the workforce but filed 40% of unemployment insurance claims, according to the nonprofit Louisiana Budget Project.

In the southern Illinois Delta, unemployment has more than doubled in the past year from 3.7% in September, 2019 to 7.7% in September, 2020.

Mississippi’s unemployment rate is 7.1%, Alabama at 6.6% and Kentucky at 5.6% are faring somewhat better.

Michael Pakko of the Arkansas Economic Development Institute reported that “after recovering through the months of May, June and July, continued improvement Arkansas labor markets has slowed.” The unemployment rate was slightly lower in September, declining 0.1 percentage point to 7.3%, but Pakko said there has been no statistically significant change in Arkansas’ unemployment rate since July.

The U.S. unemployment rate which peaked at 14.7% in April, fell by half a percentage point in September, declining from 8.4% to 7.9%.

KUAR in Little Rock News Report on Delta Caucus Forum in Hotly Contested 2nd District Race, US Rep. Hill & state Sen. Elliott

Posted on October 28, 2020 at 01:51 PM

Arkansas’ 2nd District Congressional Candidates Discuss Hostile Political Environment

(A report from KUAR radio news department)

(EDITOR’S NOTE FROM THE DELTA CAUCUS—We are just forwarding (with KUAR News Director Michael Hibblen’s permission) a news report on the KUAR news radio website regarding the Delta Caucus forum for the two candidates in the hotly contested, nationally watched 2nd Congressional District race in Arkansas between US Rep. French Hill (R-Little Rock) and state Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock) that was part of our Delta conference by Zoom on Oct. 14, 2020 by Zoom.

The Delta Caucus is not endorsing either candidate. This report is copied word for word exactly the way it was written and placed on the KUAR website on Oct. 21, 2020. This will be of interest throughout our region because it deals with national issues regarding health care, the economy, the Greater Delta Region, nutrition and other important subjects.

The forum was moderated by two journalists: Michael Hibblen, News Director of KUAR radio (the NPR station in Little Rock) and Roby Brock, Editor-in-Chief of Talk Business & Politics.

There have been several forums with somewhat differing formats focusing on the 2nd Congressional District race, with the Delta Caucus forum on Oct. 14 being one of them. Thanks–Lee Powell, Delta Caucus

“Arkansas’ 2nd District Congressional Candidates Discuss Hostile Political Environment”

By SAMANTHA ROMANO • KUAR radio news (KUAR is the NPR station in Little Rock)

Candidates for Arkansas’ 2nd District Congressional seat spoke with the Delta Grassroots Caucus on Oct. 14. Democratic state Sen. Joyce Elliott (left) spoke first, followed by U.S. Rep. French Hill.

With recent polling showing a razor-tight race for Arkansas’ 2nd congressional district, money from national political organizations is flowing into Arkansas. As voters are being inundated with negative advertising between the two candidates, they received another chance to hear the candidates’ views on Oct. 23.

Less than two weeks before Election Day, Arkansas PBS announced that Republican incumbent Rep. French Hill and Democratic state Sen. Joyce Elliott will be interviewed in back-to-back episodes of the program “Arkansas Week.” The shows aired Friday, Oct. 23 beginning at 7 p.m. and repeated Sunday beginning at 9:30 a.m. KUAR also broadcast the episodes Monday, Oct. 26 from 7 to 8 p.m.

The two faced off in a debate on Oct. 12 on the network of television stations. Two days later on Wednesday, Elliott and Hill spoke during separate live forums as part of the Delta Grassroots Caucus’s annual meeting. Executive Director Lee Powell told the candidates he was disappointed there wasn’t more discussion about President Trump during Monday’s debate.

“We were surprised that there was not hardly any reference to what the candidates thought about President Trump,” Powell said at the start of Hill’s session. Both candidates were questioned by Talk Business & Politics Editor-In-Chief Roby Brock and KUAR News Director Michael Hibblen.

When asked her opinion on President Trump’s job performance, Elliott chose to discuss her own political priorities.

“I could sum up what I think that the president should be working on by talking about what my priorities are,” Elliott said. “So many things I have as my priorities are the ones that are not being addressed in a way that’s effective. For example, small businesses across the country.”

Elliott said that with one in six small businesses closed because of the pandemic, the president should be focused on getting them back on their feet. She also brought up the need for transparency in federal economic recovery efforts, which she said Hill voted against disclosing. Elliott argued that if the nation had this transparency, people would know that the interests of large corporations are ahead of residents in getting federal relief dollars.

“I think that’s something the president should have spoken out against, and it is something that we should never have to have a question with things like public money,” Elliott said. “I think it’s really important that we remember that people are struggling.”

Hill addressed his feelings on the president’s job performance in terms of foreign and domestic policies. Regarding domestic policy, he voiced his support for cutting regulations, or red tape, across the federal regulatory bureaucracy.

On foreign policy, Hill asserted some difference of opinion with the Trump. He said, “the president has reiterated America is ready to lead in national security by reasserting our partnership in NATO, for example. By working for peace in the Middle East, by getting us out of the failed Iran nuclear deal and refocusing the area back on our partnership with Israel on bringing peace to the region. While I haven’t agreed with every tactic he has used on trade for example, I opposed across the board steel and aluminum tariffs.”

Hill and Elliott were also asked about the recent alleged plots by far-right paramilitary groups to kidnap the governors of Michigan and Virginia in retaliation for issuing lockdown orders due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sen. Elliott suggested that President Trump has contributed to the current hyperpartisan political environment.

“There’s not been a positive tone set about working together,” she said. “I think attacks on democracy make people a lot more reticent about even participating, especially because of our leaders. But if you don’t figure out a way to work with other people, then you let this kind of thing happen. As far as I can see, very few on the Republican side have said anything at all about what’s happened with the threats to these two governors.”

Meanwhile Hill argued that Democrats have not spoken out on recent rioting that has occurred during demonstrations against police brutality. He said new allegations detailed in testimony by an FBI agent about plots ahead of Election Day show a new level of danger.

“Kidnap a governor? This is insane,” Hill said. “I think all leaders, President Trump, Speaker Pelosi – who has been very… she has not spoken out against this violence – and President Trump could do a much better job in his rhetoric about speaking out against both the left and right people who are using violent acts, or threatening violent acts. We need Speaker Pelosi doing that, we need Donald Trump doing that, we need members of Congress doing that.”

Hill said he’s glad that political campaigns in Arkansas have maintained a level of civility, as exemplified by the current political cycle.