The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

“Delta Vision, Delta Voices”

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The Future of the Delta: Actions, Goals, and Recommendations

The Mississippi Delta 2000 Initiative calls for the formation of a dynamic coalition to move the region forward: Federal, State and local governments, private business, faith-based organizations and nonprofit foundations must all play energetic roles. The Federal government can provide technical assistance and resources, but ultimately empowerment and lasting change flow from leadership at the grassroots level. As Bill Clinton expressed the empowering nature of broad-based grassroots participation in 1990, “Being in the vanguard of change need not be a distinction limited to the freedom-hungry citizens of Eastern Europe or Poland or the aggressive business people of Singapore or Korea. The people of the Delta belong in that vanguard. They want to be there, and they can be, if each of us will do our part.”



“Now, to keep our historic economic expansion going, I believe we need a 21st century revolution to open new markets, start new businesses, hire new workers right here in America—in our inner cities, poor rural areas, and Native American reservations. Our nation’s prosperity hasn’t yet reached these places. Over the last six months, I’ve traveled to a lot of them, joined by many of you, and many far-sighted business people, to shine a spotlight on the enormous potential in communities from Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta, from Watts to the Pine Ridge Reservation. Everywhere I go, I meet talented people eager for opportunity, and able to work. Tonight I ask you, let’s put them to work. For business, it’s the smart thing to do. For America, it’s the right thing to do. And let me ask you something—if we don’t do this now, when in the wide world will we ever get around to it?

So I ask Congress to give businesses the same incentives to invest in America’s new markets they now have to invest in markets overseas. Tonight, I propose a large New Markets tax credit and other incentives to spur $22 billion in private-sector capital to create new businesses and new investments in our inner cities and rural areas. Because empowerment zones have been creating these opportunities for five years now, I also ask you to increase incentives to invest in them and to create more of them. And let me say to all of you again what I have tried to say at every turn—this is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. Giving people a chance to live their dreams is an American issue.

Mr. Speaker, it was a powerful moment last November when you joined Reverend Jesse Jackson and me in your home State of Illinois, and committed to working toward our common goal, by combining the best ideas from both sides of the aisle. I want to thank you again, and to tell you, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to working with you. This is a worthy, joint endeavor. Thank you.

I also ask you to make special efforts to address the areas of our nation with the highest rates of poverty—our Native American reservations and the Mississippi Delta. My budget includes a $110-million initiative (NOTE: the amount was later increased to more than $159 million) to promote economic development in the Delta, and a billion dollars to increase economic opportunity, health care, education and law enforcement for our Native American communities. In this new century—we should begin this new century by honoring our historic responsibility to empower the first Americans. And I want to thank tonight the leaders and the members from both parties who’ve expressed to me an interest in working with us on these efforts. They are profoundly important.

There’s another part of our American community in trouble tonight—our family farmers. When I signed the Farm Bill in 1996, I said there was great danger it would work well in good times, but not in bad. Well, droughts, floods, and historically low prices have made these times very bad for the farmers. We must work together to strengthen the farm safety net, invest in land conservation, and create some new markets for them by expanding our programs for bio-based fuels and products. Please, they need help—let’s do it together. Opportunity for all requires something else today—having access to a computer and knowing how to use it. That means we must close the digital divide between those who’ve got the tools and those who don’t.”

“America can’t ignore the people who have been left behind.”

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, Illinois


Fostering Economic Development in the Mississippi Delta

President Clinton and Vice President Gore are committed to bringing economic prosperity to the Mississippi Delta region and other areas of the country which have not benefited from the Nation’s soaring economy. In the Delta region, poverty remains at 175 percent of the national average and over half of the counties have had poverty rates over 20 percent for the past four decades. The per capita income in the Delta’s distressed communities is only 53 percent of the U.S. average. To address these problems, the President’s budget proposes $159 million to increase specifically economic opportunities in the Mississippi Delta region, including $30 million to create a new Delta Regional Authority to bring the resources of a Federal-State partnership to the fight for economic growth in the region. This partnership will help provide the infrastructure and job training needed to make prosperity a reality in the Delta.

Establishing a Delta Regional Authority

Targeting Distressed Areas: The Delta Regional Authority’s funding will be targeted to the counties with the highest poverty and unemployment rates, and lowest per capita income. The DRA will include:

  • $25 million for area development such as distressed counties programs, physical infrastructure and job training;
  • $3 million for assistance to participating State and local economic development entities; and
  • $2 million for technical assistance and administrative expenses.

Fostering a Coordinated Effort: The Delta Regional Authority will foster close coordination between State and local officials and the Federal government, led by the Federal Co-Chair appointed by the President. The Governors of the seven member States will serve as DRA members, with one Governor elected to serve as the States’ Co-Chair. This can be accomplished through authorizing legislation that has been introduced in the House and Senate.

Providing $107 Million in Targeted Economic Development Assistance for the Delta Region

Supporting Rural Housing and Economic Development: The Department of Housing and Urban Development will provide $22 million in Community Development Block Grants to support rural housing and economic development. Funding will be awarded through a competitive process for economic revitalization and community development initiatives in the Delta region.

Improving Public Works and Infrastructure: The Commerce Department will provide $10 million through targeted Economic Development Administration funding for public works and infrastructure grants. These grants require a State or local match, except in extremely distressed communities.

Increasing Funds for Transportation Improvements: The Transportation Department will provide a total of $69 million in funding targeted to the Delta region, including:

  • $48 million for new bridge and highway infrastructure in the Delta, including $25 million specifically for I-69 and the Great River Bridge;
  • $20 million in transit funds, consisting of $15 million from the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants program for public transit buses and bus facilities to provide affordable transportation and $5 million from FTA’s Access to Jobs and Reverse Commute Grants to promote vanpools, new bus routes, and other transportation alternatives; and
  • $1 million from Federal Highway Administration administrative funds for technical assistance, including training on Federal programs and developing a tourism marketing plan and a regional transportation plan—with efforts toward these goals to begin this year.

Supporting Rural Business: The Department of Agriculture will provide $6 million in funding to support rural businesses, including:

  • $4 million for the Intermediary Relending Program, which finances loans to intermediary borrowers who in turn re-lend the funds to rural businesses, community development corporations, and others for the purpose of improving rural economic opportunity—the $4 million represents loan subsidy costs and would support a loan level of $8 million; and
  • $2 million for Partnership Technical Assistance grants, to help underserved communities create strategic plans, better use USDA’s Rural Development grant and loan programs, create jobs, improve the quality of life, and build strong, sustained economic growth. These grants will be run through the Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program.
Investing $22 Million in the People of the Delta Region

Providing Training for Dislocated Workers: The Department of Labor will provide resources through the Dislocated Worker Employment and Training Program, which provides core services, intensive services, training and support to help dislocated workers return to work as quickly as possible. The Labor Department will partner with the Departments of Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Education, and Health and Human Services to support the Delta Regional Authority activities by providing as much as $5 million in dislocated worker grants for qualified applications from the seven States and 219 counties comprising the Mississippi Delta region.

Providing Technology Training for Teachers: The Education Department will provide $10 million for a targeted demonstration project to provide technology training to middle school teachers in the seven-State Mississippi Delta region. Research suggests that middle school is an especially critical time for students to learn the technology-related skills they will need to succeed in today’s economy. The program will use a “train-the-trainers” approach by training a small number of teachers from each school who can then be technology leaders, serve as resident experts, and assist other teachers in their schools or districts.

Increasing Access to Quality Health Services: The Department of Health and Human Services will provide $7 million through the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Rural Health Outreach program for grants to fund rural health clinics in the Mississippi Delta region. This request will fund up to 30 new Rural Health Outreach grants, and will support a wide range of services in the Delta region including primary care, dental care, mental health services and emergency care. Each grant will require participation by a consortium of three or more providers, which will encourage the development of shared services arrangements among providers and new networks of care in the Delta region.

“This is a time in which to build…not a time to rest.”

President William Jefferson Clinton-Comments during trip to the Delta in 1999