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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Statement by Vice President Gore

The roots of the Delta 2000 Initiative go back more than a decade. As Governor of Arkansas, President Clinton provided leadership from the initiative’s earliest days. Today we can say that progress has been made. However, poverty in the Delta remains at unacceptable levels: it is 175 percent of the national average and more than half of the Delta counties have had poverty rates higher than 20 percent for the past four decades. Per capita income in the Delta’s distressed communities is still only 53 percent of the national average. We can do better. We have to do better, and we will do better, because we are committed to ensuring that in this unprecedented period of prosperity we leave no one behind who works hard and plays by the rules.

The title of this Report captures the heart and essence of the work that lies ahead. Every initiative needs a vision, but I especially like the reference to voices—the voices of the people who live and work in the Delta and who call the region home. These voices are rich in all their cultural diversity. Local officials, business leaders, educators, church and community leaders, and common people all came together to have their thoughts and interests included. This Report illustrates that there are people behind this initiative; they are the driving force of its aspirations, and they are telling us where they are going with their dreams. In my role as the Chairman of the President’s Community Empowerment Board (CEB), I have found that Federal programs at their best can only serve as catalysts and tools for action. However, it will be the more than 8.3 million people in the 219 counties and seven States who have helped to formulate the recommendations found in this Report who will continue to take actions to form partnerships with business, nonprofits, and local and State organizations to meet the unique challenges faced in this region.

I would like to thank Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater and the members of the inter-agency task force for their work on behalf of this effort. Secretary Slater was with the State of Arkansas when he initially became involved in this project, and I genuinely appreciate his dedication in staying with it for so long. This is also an opportunity for me to express my personal gratitude, since part of my home State of Tennessee is in the Delta. I certainly know firsthand the great need that exists in underserved communities within the Delta region and around our nation.

The Empowerment Zones/Enterprise Communities (EZ/EC) program is a major Administration innovation in the field of community development and is very much a part of this initiative. In 1994, we announced eight rural and five urban EZs and ECs in the Delta; in the next selection round, another rural EZ was designated. The EZ/EC program embodies what the Delta initiative is all about; it is based upon the principles of sustainable development, leadership from the grassroots level, economic opportunity, long-range strategic planning and community-based partnerships. The 26 Federal agencies that comprise the CEB have been working in partnership with the Delta communities and the private sector to make a real difference.

In 1998, I was proud to join Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman and Secretary Slater to host the signing of the Southern EZ/EC Forum Partnership Agreement by the community leaders and organizations in the Delta region Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities. The agreement committed all parties to work cooperatively to achieve sustainable economies and human development to raise the quality of life in the Lower Mississippi Delta region.

Today’s Report presents many recommendations in transportation, health care, education, environmental and natural resource protection, and economic development. This Administration has proposed an additional $159 million for increased economic opportunities in the Delta, including $30 million to create a new Delta Regional Authority to bring resources of a Federal-State partnership to support economic growth. This funding will invest in infrastructure to support rural housing, transportation, and public works. In addition, it will support rural businesses and provide training for dislocated workers and technical support for teachers.

Let us all join together to push for the continued success of this initiative and bring the economic prosperity of America to all Americans. I assure you that I will be doing everything in my power to make the Delta Vision, Delta Voices a reality.