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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“At the age of twelve, I had an attitude toward life that was to endure, that was to make me see those areas of living that would keep it alive, that was to make me skeptical of everything while seeking everything, tolerant of all yet critical.”

Richard Wright, Black Boy


Improving the quality of life in the Delta must begin with the celebration of one of its greatest strengths—its rich ethnic, cultural and racial diversity—while attacking its greatest flaw: the blight of racism. A fundamental theme running throughout this Report is the need to ameliorate race relations in the Delta. Racism has been one of the most destructive forces in preventing the people of the Delta from making joint progress in attacking the region’s social, political, and economic problems. In many areas—community development, educational opportunities, small business assistance, and others—there have been important strides made in the 1990’s for African-Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and other minorities in the Delta. Yet much remains to be done. Minorities in the Delta have not participated freely in the economic boom of the 1990s. Since approximately 40 percent of the Delta’s people are African-American and the relatively small number of Hispanics in the region is rapidly growing, this is a vital issue.

This Report addresses a multitude of issues that deal in part or entirely with race relations. Several examples below illustrate some of the important activities underway. Magnet schools: The Magnet School Assistance Program (MSAP) has assisted school districts in planning and developing such schools as part of that district’s approved desegregation plan to reduce, eliminate or prevent minority group isolation. For example, the Monroe City School District in Louisiana will receive up to $3,730,659 over three years for its MSAP project to establish technology-based magnet schools at Carroll Junior High School and Carroll Senior High School. The program will foster partnerships with business, technical colleges, and universities to create a strong link between school-based and real-world learning.

Minority education at elementary, secondary and college levels: Through the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), additional Federal resources through the Title I program were directed to schools with high percentages of students living in poverty. A substantial majority of elementary and secondary schools in the Delta receive Title I funding. At the college and university level, a number of initiatives have been pursued, including assistance for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) program, which makes up another major component of the effort to assist minorities in obtaining opportunities for educational advancement. Many Departments—including USDA, Education, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and others—are committed to strengthening their active partnership agreements with the association of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) to provide college students training and job opportunities.

Bilingual and migrant education programs: The Department of Education’s Bilingual Education program assists students with Limited English Proficiency (LEP), including many Latino children, learn English and achieve the same high academic standards as other students. The Migrant Education Program reaches out to migrant farm workers’ children who suffer from the combined effects of poverty, inadequate mobility, and limited English proficiency, characteristic of many migrant children. For example, the Orleans Parish School District in Louisiana received $463,676 in Federal funding in FY98 through a Bilingual Education Comprehensive School grant to restructure, upgrade, and reform the current program for over 1,300 LEP students speaking more than 20 languages.

Minorities in the agricultural sector: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has pursued a number of policies for assisting small farmers and farm workers, many of whom are minorities. Expansion of marketing opportunities, greater access to credit, and other policies for the disadvantaged have been advanced, although much remains to be done to correct the historic discrimination that has been inflicted upon minority farmers. Efforts have been made to provide aid for farm laborers, many of whom are African-American and Hispanic. In addition to the education programs cited above, housing is a major issue for migrant workers. Farm labor housing in the Delta region has traditionally consisted of single-family dwellings located on private lands, which the agricultural producer funded. But, with changes in the agricultural economy of the Delta, there has been a shift away from such housing. In the 1990’s, USDA Rural Development provided assistance for farm labor housing programs in the Delta. Mississippi built 26 on-farm labor housing units totaling $1.23 million, and western Tennessee built two units at a cost of over $100,000. In Arkansas, however, construction of new, on-farm units has continued at a more significant rate, and an innovative, overnight housing and referral facility for migrant farm workers was developed in Hope, Arkansas. During the 1990’s, Rural Development in Arkansas provided 47 domestic Farm Labor Housing loans to finance 62 on-farm units totaling approximately $2,610,000. Moreover, Rural Development in Arkansas also granted $2.5 million to construct the new Hope Migrant Complex.

The Hope Migrant Farm Labor Center was constructed to assist families and individuals as they travel through a “migrant stream”—workers who travel to points north and south, anticipating work opportunities along certain routes. Each year, thousands of families following the midwestern migrant stream travel through Hope, Arkansas, and many families stop to rest at the Labor Center. They are provided with housing, job referrals and social services assistance. Farm workers have historically been among the most socially and economically distressed groups in the region, despite their essential contribution in producing the food Americans eat every day. USDA’s Rural Development and the U.S. Department of Labor are working on this and other projects to assist farm workers throughout the region.

Fair housing opportunity: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has vigorously invoked its authority under the Fair Housing Act to prosecute cases of housing discrimination. HUD has funded the Fair Housing Initiatives Program, which aids private nonprofit organizations, State and local governments and other entities committed to enhancing compliance with the nation’s fair housing laws. Furthermore, HUD launched a rigorous independent study of racial and ethnic discrimination in housing and rental sales in order to enhance its continuing effort to enforce fair housing opportunities.

Minority small businesses: The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Micro Loan program has assisted small businesses throughout the region, with over half of the loans going to African-Americans. SBA’s Section 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program provides loans to eligible, credit-worthy small businesses that cannot obtain financing on reasonable terms through normal lending channels. This program has steadily increased its loan activity for minorities. In fiscal year 1992, 15 percent of the loans were made to minorities and 14 percent to women, while in fiscal year 1998, that percentage had risen to 24 percent to minorities as well as 24 percent to women. In fiscal year 1999, SBA guaranteed 4,052 loans in the region, amounting to more than $755 million, and almost half of the loans were to minorities and women. Similarly, the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund has provided opportunities for small businesses, including many African-American businesses, working with community development organizations such as the Enterprise Corporation for the Delta and many others.

Minority government contracts: The Federal government has made a concerted effort to provide minorities with opportunities to increase involvement with Federal contracting. The 1990 Commission explicitly recommended such assistance. The Department of Defense gives attention to minority defense contract awards, and SBA’s Section 8(a) program is a set-aside for small disadvantaged businesses. African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and Asian Pacific Americans are included among those designated as disadvantaged under the Small Business Act. To date, there are 683 companies taking part in Section 8(a) in the Delta region. To cite just a few examples of the benefits: in four Delta counties in Arkansas in 1998, $18.5 million in Federal contracting dollars were awarded to small and disadvantaged businesses, while three Louisiana Delta counties received almost $32 million.

HUBZones: Similarly, the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZones) program provides Federal contracting opportunities for qualified and certified individually owned small businesses located in areas with high unemployment, low-income residents, or on Native American reservations. Almost every county along the Mississippi River is included among the more than 7,500 HUBZones across the nation. SBA pursues a number of other policies aimed at providing fair opportunities for minorities (and all small, disadvantaged businesses) through its Small Business Development Centers and other initiatives.

Minority health: In 1998, President Clinton instructed Federal agencies to pursue a major initiative to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is leading this effort to focus attention on minority health issues. One example of this attention is the Mississippi Delta Environmental Health Project, supported by HHS through a cooperative agreement with the Minority Health Professions Foundation. This project identifies environmental and other problems that affect the health of Delta minorities, addresses demographics, identification of health care providers and environmental services in the region, and implements strategies to address these problems.

Environmental justice for minorities: Pursuant to the Clinton Administration’s Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations,” the Environmental Protection Agency has funded a variety of low-income and minority communities through its Environmental Justice Program, including grants to Delta institutions of higher learning to study hazardous waste, health and the environment in the region. The Department of Transportation also has made environmental justice a cornerstone of its relationship with its stakeholders, working to ensure that the public participation process which underlies all State and metropolitan plans is fully open to access by minorities who would be affected by proposed transportation projects.

Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities: As discussed earlier, this major Clinton-Gore Administration innovation in community development has designated 15 rural and urban EZs and ECs in the Delta located in economically distressed areas with large minority populations.

Civil Rights Division, Justice Department actions: The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) has done extensive work to ensure equal rights and equal opportunity for all residents of the region, regardless of race, ethnicity, color, gender, or disability. Numerous Federal criminal civil rights cases have been filed during the past seven years. These prosecutions include hate crime violations as well as acts of official misconduct and criminal violations of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE). In addition, DOJ has promoted educational opportunities by enforcing extant desegregation decrees in longstanding school cases to which the United States is a party. Fair housing, employment discrimination, and voters’ rights remain top priorities in the Mississippi Delta, and DOJ has been very active in these areas. For example, DOJ has brought cases under the Voting Rights Act to ensure that minority voters have an equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice, and extensive work has been done in defending State and local redistricting plans challenged under the 14th Amendment as unlawful racial gerrymanders.

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, established in 1957 following enactment of the first civil rights statutes since Reconstruction, is the primary Federal institution responsible for enforcing Federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, sex, handicap, religion, and national origin. The following includes some highlights in key areas:

  • Disability rights: In the area of enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Civil Rights Division has been quite active in the Delta. The Department of Justice has entered into a consent decree with the Louisiana Department of Corrections, for example, to resolve a complaint regarding the denial of reasonable accommodations to applicants for corrections officer positions. Also, DOJ has reached settlements with various Delta cities and counties including the City of Gonzalez, Louisiana; Hickman County, Kentucky; and Marshall County, Mississippi, to resolve allegations that they failed to complete self-evaluation or transition plans—a requirement for providing access to government programs. DOJ has also reached settlement agreements under Title III of the ADA (ensuring access to public accommodations) against several hotels in the region.

  • Educational opportunities: Since 1993 the Educational Opportunities Litigation Section has had case-related activity in 37 counties/parishes in three States of the region: 19 in Louisiana (Ascension, Avoyelles, Catahoula, Concordia, E. Baton Rouge, Evangeline, Franklin, Iberville, Livingston, Ouachita, Pointe Coupee, Rapides, St. Bernard, St. Helena, St. Johns, St. Landry, Tenesas, W. Carroll, W. Feliciana); 13 in Mississippi (Benton, Bolivar, Copiah, Covington, DeSoto, Lafayette, LeFlore, Madison, Rankin, Simpson, Tunica, Wilkinson, Yazoo); and 5 in Tennessee (Fayette, Hardeman, Madison, Shelby, Tipton). With minor exceptions, activity in this region has involved enforcement of extant desegregation decrees in longstanding school cases to which the United States is a party. Typically, the range of issues includes student assignment, course offerings, faculty/staff hiring and assignment, facilities, and extracurricular activities. Outreach to the community, by way of telephone interviews, community meetings, and site visits, is a regular part of our compliance review and litigation preparation activity. In Evangeline Parish, Louisiana, the Department of Justice is working with the school district to explore alternative ways to address concerns regarding disparate facilities conditions between majority black and majority white schools. An exploration of these alternatives was necessitated by the failure of a bond election, which would have funded a new school in a predominantly black community. Also, in Jackson-Madison County, Tennessee, at the urging of DOJ, the school district has agreed to implement a pilot reading improvement program for at-risk students at two elementary schools that have fallen outside student desegregation guidelines. DOJ also is working to have defendants identify other educational improvement programs to address minority student achievement disparities in the school system.

  • Employment discrimination: The Employment Litigation Section initiated nine employment discrimination investigations and filed ten lawsuits in the region during the past seven years. Of the ten cases filed, nine were resolved by consent decree. Five of these consent decrees continue to be monitored by the Section and four have expired. In addition, during this period DOJ has monitored and ensured compliance with nine consent decrees entered in previous cases.

    In August 1996, the Civil Rights Division filed a complaint and tendered a consent decree to the court in a case alleging that the State of Louisiana had engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against African-American applicants for the position of state police cadet. In particular, DOJ alleged that the written examination used between August 1991 and May 1996 in the processing of state police cadet candidates had an adverse impact against African-Americans and did not meet the requirements of Title VII.

    The consent decree enjoins the State from discriminating against any individual with respect to the hiring, selection, promotion, or terms and conditions of employment within the Louisiana State Police (LSP) in violation of Title VII; requires the LSP to recruit individuals from all groups protected by Title VII in numbers approximating their interest in the position of state police cadet; and requires it to discontinue the use of any written examination or other selection criteria that violate Title VII. The Louisiana State Police, with DOJ’s agreement, contracted with an outside consultant to develop a new examination that has significantly less adverse impact on black candidates. The decree also established a $1 million back pay fund for victims and provided for up to 18 qualified victims to be hired on a priority basis as state police cadets, with retroactive seniority and pension credits. Finally, the decree provided for remedial seniority and pension credit for eligible African-American incumbents whose hiring was delayed as a result of the written examination.

  • Fair housing: The Justice Department’s Housing and Civil Enforcement section has been active in enforcing the Fair Housing Act (FHA) in the region. For example, this section recently filed a pattern or practice case against the Deposit Guaranty National Bank alleging that one of the largest banking institutions in Mississippi violated the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act by discriminating on the basis of race against African-Americans in the provision of home improvement loans. A complaint and settlement agreement were filed on September 29, 1999. Under the agreement, among other things, the bank will pay $3 million in monetary damages to 250 victims of discrimination. In January 1994, the Department filed its complaint and reached an agreement with the First National Bank of Vicksburg, Mississippi, to resolve allegations that it allegedly charged African-Americans higher interest rates on unsecured home improvement loans than equally qualified nonminorities. Under the agreement, the bank agreed to pay about $750,000 to compensate victims, pay $50,000 in civil penalties, and take a variety of corrective measures.

  • Voting rights: The Civil Rights Division has been very active in bringing cases under the Voting Rights Act to ensure that minority voters have an equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice. DOJ also has done extensive work defending State and local redistricting plans challenged under the 14th Amendment as unlawful racial gerrymanders.

    For example, between 1993 and 1997, the Voting Section continued to litigate its case against the City of Memphis, Tennessee in which local practices were alleged to have diluted minority voting strength in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The case challenged the use of atlarge elections for six of the thirteen city council seats and the use of a majorityvote requirement for all citywide elections. The district court issued preliminary injunctions against the use of the citywide majorityvote requirement for the city’s 1991 and 1995 elections. After the city modified its method of election by referendum to remedy the Section 2 violation, and the district court issued a permanent injunction against the majorityvote requirement on the grounds that it violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, DOJ agreed to dismiss its remaining claims.

    In 1995 the United States intervened as a defendant in Theriot v. Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, a lawsuit that challenged the redistricting plan for the Jefferson Parish Council, which originally had been ordered into effect as a remedy for a Section 2 vote dilution violation, as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. In 1997 the District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana agreed with the United States that the plan was constitutional and ruled against the plaintiff. In August 1999 the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the decision of the district court.

The President’s One America Race Initiative: “One America” is the President’s initiative on race designed to create diverse, value-based communities in America in which differences are respected and celebrated, by involving community leaders in a thoughtful, respectful dialogue of trust and idea sharing. In June 1997, President Clinton announced the “One America in the 21st Century” initiative designed to help shape an America based on “opportunity for all, responsibility from all, and one community of all Americans.” Having recognized that in areas of our country the legacy of racism can be especially destructive to forming the community linkages necessary for building cooperation and prosperity, the President has pursued eliminating the “opportunity gaps” that continue to exist in the Delta and elsewhere.


HUD has worked with local communities throughout the Delta in promoting more equitable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income citizens. HUD consistently pursues policies aimed at reducing the financial, informational, and systemic barriers to homeownership as a part of President Clinton’s National Homeownership Strategy. A basic goal in the new century should be a continuation and broadening of the promising housing policies pursued in the 1990’s.

HUD supports a range of initiatives for assisting moderate- and low-income people, such as escrow accounts containing a percentage of monthly rent for high-end rent paying tenants to be used later for down payments on homes; Community Development Block Grant funding projects; mortgage assistance; assistance for the elderly and disabled; and a variety of policies aimed at eradicating racial, religious or other forms of discrimination in housing. The Commission in 1990 had recommended that an additional 400,000 units of decent, affordable rental housing be provided for low-income Delta residents by 2001, and HUD reported that building permits for an estimated 310,000 such units had already been issued by 1998.

Homelessness issues: An array of initiatives has been aimed at eliminating homelessness from the Delta. While acknowledging that this ambitious goal has not yet been achieved, addressing homelessness is one of the Clinton Administration’s priorities. Nationally, funding for HUD’s homelessness assistance programs grew dramatically from $284 million in 1992 to $975 million in 1999. An innovative approach called Continuum of Care involves comprehensive and cooperative local planning to ensure the availability of a range of services—from emergency shelter to permanent housing—needed to meet the complex needs of the homeless. However, the 1990 Commission set the highly ambitious goal of eradicating homelessness by 2001. That goal has not been met. In the years beyond 2000, there should be a continuation and expansion of this effort to eliminate homelessness.

Housing discrimination issues: HUD has greatly expanded efforts to enforce the Fair Housing Act. From the early 1990s to 1998, HUD secured more than $3.2 million to compensate people who had suffered discrimination in violation of housing laws. Using its authority under the Fair Housing Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, HUD has investigated, settled, and when necessary prosecuted cases of housing discrimination.

Rural housing: In addressing housing problems for rural areas, USDA’s Rural Housing Service assisted nearly 43,000 Delta households to buy or improve their homes. These loans for single-family housing in the region from fiscal years 1993 through 1999 came to a total of $2.236 billion. Regarding rental housing, the 1990 Report recommended that Section 515 Rural Renting Housing and Section 521 Rental Assistance programs be expanded. Through these programs, RHS provided more than $254 million in low-interest loans for more than 10,000 rental units in the rural areas of the Delta.

Housing Goals and Recommendations

In looking to the future development of the Delta region, it is essential to take a candid look at those areas that have suffered the most. As the distressed rural counties of the Delta suffer many of the worst unemployment rates, these areas also experience many of the worst housing problems. The Housing Assistance Council reported in 1997 that people in rural areas of the Delta are more likely to live below the poverty line: 24 percent of Arkansas rural residents lived below the level, 29 percent of Louisiana residents, and 31 percent of Mississippi rural residents lived below the poverty line. The Housing Assistance Council stressed that these poverty rates obviously pose serious housing problems for the region. About 6 percent of African-American households in Arkansas lack plumbing, 4 percent in Louisiana, and 6 percent in Mississippi. The averages of the population as a whole are almost three times superior to that rate. People in the Delta also have a higher housing cost burden—defined as paying greater than 30 percent of monthly income for shelter costs. In Arkansas 42 percent of the rural households and 39 percent of the urban are cost-burdened, 47 percent of the rural households and 44 percent of the urban in Louisiana, and 44 percent of rural households and 43 percent of the urban in Mississippi. Senior citizens are especially vulnerable: 58 percent of rural elderly renters in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi as a whole are cost-burdened. Thus, while some areas of the Delta have experienced some advances in housing, major populations have been left behind, especially the low-income elderly and African-Americans in rural areas.

In general, HUD, USDA’s Rural Housing Service and other Federal agencies have developed a strong collaboration with major nonprofit organizations in the Delta such as the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and many other community development organizations. The major HUD initiatives aimed at expanding homeownership, fighting homelessness, improving housing, and opposing discrimination in housing should be continued and broadened.

Housing Efforts Help Revitalize Downtown Jackson, Mississippi District

Forty years ago, Jackson, Mississippi’s Farish Street district was a thriving commercial and residential area where African-American businesses and blues clubs flourished. The 125-block district traces its roots to a settlement founded by freed slaves in the 1860s. “From the 1920s through the era of Jim Crow, Farish Street was really in its heyday,” says Michael Hervey, Executive Director of the Farish Street Historic District Neighborhood Foundation. “It was a self-contained community because African-Americans had no place else to go. After integration, though, many residents elected to move out and look for the American Dream in the suburbs.”

Like other inner cities neighborhoods across the country, the Farish Street district experienced its share of disinvestment during the 1960s and 1970s. However, Farish Street was luckier than other inner-city neighborhoods that watched urban renewal change their unique characters. Historic buildings along Farish Street remain standing and intact. When the area received a historic district designation in 1994, its downward spiral began to reverse.

The first sign of that reversal was the Farish Street Housing Project, a $2.5 million, foundation-initiated project that renovated 35 historic shotgun houses during 1998. The housing project, completed in March 1999, involved a host of partners. The National Equity Fund provided $1.6 million from the sale of Historic Preservation Tax Credits. A consortium of local banks furnished $600,000 and the City of Jackson gave $175,000 from its Community Development Block Grant allocation from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The shotgun homes, built between 1930 and 1950, were completely gutted inside and their outside structures were retained and restored. Each home required new plumbing, electrical wiring, fixtures, and appliances. Eligible residents who qualify for Section 8 rental subsidies will be able to rent the one-, two-, and three-bedroom bungalows. After the 15-year tax credit compliance period ends, the homes will be sold to qualified buyers. For now, tenants won’t pay more than 30 percent of their incomes for rent.

The project will provide much-needed housing in an area where more than half of the residential stock is vacant, substandard, or abandoned. In addition, the project already has helped the local economy by providing construction jobs for almost 60 local workers. Minority-owned firms received 80 percent of the project’s business.

Rural Housing: In general, USDA’s Rural Housing Service (RHS) will continue its policies of assisting Delta families in housing opportunities. These policies led to a number of constructive results from 1993 to 1999, such as helping nearly 43,000 households buy or improve their homes, as well as low-interest loans for more than 10,000 rental units over that period.

Multi-Family Rural Housing: The 1990 Commission urged an increase in units of decent, affordable housing for low-income Delta residents. In particular, the Report singled out the need for expanding USDA’s rural housing programs: the Section 515 Rural Renting Housing and Section 521 Rental Assistance programs.

Through its Section 515 Rural Rental Housing and Section 521 Rental Assistance programs, RHS employs a private-public partnership by providing subsidized loans to developers to construct or renovate affordable housing complexes in rural areas. By combining low interest loans, rents are affordable to low-income tenants. With rental assistance, tenants pay 30% of their income towards their rent (including utilities). RHS maintains an active Rural Rental Housing program enabling 397 projects to build or improve rental units that provide decent, safe living conditions for lower income Delta families and elderly. The following table shows the number of RHS Section 515 loans and Section 521 Rental Assistance units provided in the Delta counties, 1990 to mid-1999.

Section 515 Rural Rental Housing in Lower Mississippi
Delta Counties Projects Assisted 1990—mid-1999
STATE # Projects # Units # RA Units Loan Obligations (in millions)
AR 89 2322 1356 $55.9
IL 16 342 143 $5.5
KY 18 326 262 $10.9
LA 108 3086 1790 $73.8
MS 91 2633 1377 $59.3
MO 52 1030 734 $28.7
TN 23 737 462 $20.2
  397 10476 6124 $254.3

Farm Labor Housing: One of the successful programs in housing during the 1990s is the Hope, Arkansas Migrant Farm Labor Center, funded by USDA. As discussed in the “Diversity” section of this Report, this project provides housing, job referral and other social service assistance to farm worker families who are passing through this migrant stream. RHS recommends expansion of this successful model to other States in the region. At least two additional migrant farm labor centers need to be established in other areas of the Delta, patterned after the project in Arkansas.

HUD proposes the development of Specialized Notices of Funding Availability (NOFAs) in the Delta: HUD would allocate special population points within selected NOFA areas to applicants proposing to do work in the seven-State, 219-county MS Delta region. All competitions would be conducted in conformity with section 103 of the HUD Reform Act. A “NOFA” is the formal Federal Register notification that funds for a particular program are available for eligible applicants to apply. This has already been done with HUD’s Rural Housing and Economic Development Program. The FY 2000 NOFA for that program allocates several points for applicants who propose to serve the Delta (as well as selected other areas with very high need.)

Jerome G. Little Housing for Senior Citizens in the Delta

This HUD-funded Section 202 Elderly Housing facility is located in Webb, Mississippi, a city with a population of just over 600 people. The Tallahatchie County area, in which Webb is located, is one of the poorest parts of the State. Tallahatchie County’s annual median per capita income is just over $13,000.

The Jerome G. Little complex has 33 units, reserved for low-income elderly residents. It consists of 17 one-story buildings, each of which contains two units. It has an outdoor gazebo, a community center, and a management office on site. As with most other multi-family complexes built in the Delta region, the infrastructure to support the development was not in place before the construction began. Adequate plumbing and sewer lines, streets, sidewalks and other amenities did not exist and were included as part of the development cost. Therefore, many partners came together with HUD to make this project a success, including Tallahatchie Housing, Inc. a local non-profit housing provider; the local LISC office, which helped to prepare the application and funded the pre-development costs; the USDA Rural Development program, which extended water and sewer lines to the project; and the Federal Home Loan Bank, which provided a grant to pay for enhancements to the project.

Jerome G. Little has been complete for nearly four years, and is fully occupied, with a waiting list of eligible people wanting to move in. In a recent visit to the site, Patricia Hoban-Moore, Senior Community Builder for the Mississippi HUD office, sat with several of the residents. One of the families, a husband and wife, were living with Social Security checks as their only income. They felt fortunate to have a decent, clean and well-kept home in the area they had grown up in. As an additional benefit, the wife’s father was also a tenant at the apartments. At 86 years old and wheelchair bound, he was not able to get in and out of the shotgun shack that had been his home. The wheels of the wheelchair were getting caught in the rotted floorboards of the home, and it became time for him to find a new place to live. At Jerome G. Little apartments, he told Ms. Hoban-Moore, “This is the first house I ever lived in with indoor plumbing.”

Fund housing counseling in the seven-state, 219-county Delta region: HUD would, in conformity with relevant parts of the HUD Reform Act, target funding to housing counseling activities in the seven-state, 219-county Mississippi Delta region through its discretionary account. The Atlanta regional HUD office in conjunction with local HUD offices would conduct outreach and training.

Promote the 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance Program in the Delta region: The 203(k) Rehabilitation Mortgage Insurance Program is HUD’s primary program for the rehabilitation and repair of single-family properties. As such, it is an important tool for community and neighborhood revitalization and for expanding homeownership opportunities. HUD will work with Delta non-profits to build their capacity in accessing and using this program. Related outreach activities to Delta communities could include providing information on ensuring contractor performance and the satisfactory completion of work. Outreach and training would be conducted by the Atlanta regional HUD office in conjunction with local HUD offices.

Promotion of Real Estate Owned (REO) sales to non-profits: HUD would promote Real Estate Owned sales to non-profits and conduct outreach and training. These sales would be conducted in accordance with FHA property disposition regulations or through appropriate waiver of a regulation.

Designation of 7 HUD Delta Community Builders: HUD will designate a Community Builder in each Delta State to promote the region’s future development. These Delta Community Builders will work with Delta communities to develop innovative strategies and solutions to problems facing local communities. Activities will range from Homeownership Educational events to SuperNOFA conferences to regional development consultations.


Nearly a decade after the 1990 Commission’s recommendation to target resources to “low-income, rural students” in the Delta, the Department of Education provided over $350 million in fiscal year 1998 to high-poverty school districts in the Delta. While continued investment in public education is absolutely necessary to increase student academic achievement in the region, many Delta schools and districts have recently demonstrated some significant gains in student test scores. For example, third grade students at the Portland Elementary School in Ashley, Arkansas improved their reading scores on the Stanford Achievement Test from the 25th percentile in 1993 to the 46th percentile in 1999. The percentage of eleventh graders in the Memphis City Public Schools scoring ‘proficient’ on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Writing Assessment increased from 19 percent in 1994 to 56 percent in 1999.

“We still have a long way to go, but we believe our progress is largely a result of our school-wide approach to reform and the initiation of extended learning opportunities, both of which are facilitated by Federal program funding and flexibility reforms,” states Memphis City Schools Superintendent—and American Association of School Administrators (AASA) 1998-99 Superintendent of the Year—Dr. Gerry House. While education, of course, is primarily a responsibility of State and local governments, improving K-12 education is a major priority of the Clinton-Gore Administration. The U.S. Department of Education worked in partnership with the State and local level to help increase levels of student achievement, create greater regulatory freedom, and expand targeted funding in the Mississippi Delta region.

Targeting of funds to poor communities: The Clinton-Gore Administration has met the Commission’s 1990 goal of providing “targeted services to low-income, rural students” in the Mississippi Delta. The Department of Education—through its Title I program—provided over $350 million in FY98 alone to high-poverty school districts in the Delta to help improve student achievement. Under the Administration’s Class Size Reduction Initiative, Delta school districts received over $50 million in FY99 to hire up to 1,500 new teachers in the early grades. The Project Star study conducted in Tennessee demonstrates the positive impact of smaller classes of 13-17 students in the early grades on student achievement, especially among poor students.

Arkansas $42668265 $7692325 $50360590
Illinois $10094876 $1692705 $11787582
Kentucky $11551917 $2144517 $13696434
Louisiana $114427929 $20880116 $135308045
Mississippi $65587684 $11189176 $76776860
Missouri $21412872 $3697051 $25109926
Tennessee $38383623 $7202205 $45585828
TOTAL $304,127,166 $54,498,095 $358,625,261
Arkansas $7283009
Illinois $1591380
Kentucky $2134411
Louisiana $20690057
Mississippi $11135475
Missouri $3489667
Tennessee $6878930
TOTAL $53,202,929

Migrant farmworker education: Migrant farmworkers and their children living in the Delta also have benefited from Federal funding. During the 1998-99 school year, 91 percent of the 135 migrant students who participated in a University of Tennessee Program—supported by a $350,000 Federal grant in FY99—completed their G.E.D. A $270,000 Federal grant in FY99 provides family literacy services to 120 migrant families residing in the Kentucky Delta through the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC). Native-American students living on reservations in the region also have received additional Federal funding. The Department of Education awarded $177,097 in FY99 to the Mississippi Band of Choctaws to implement a tutorial program aimed at improving student academic achievement.

Office of Migrant Education (OME) officials met with State officials in all States—including the Delta—during the National Association of State Title I Directors conference in San Antonio, Texas, in early 2000. Delta State and local Migrant Education directors took part in a technical assistance workshop to discuss the opportunity to apply for collaborative discretionary grants. Topics included strengthening services for migrant students through coordinated Federal Education programs.

Access to technology: The Delta region has received millions of dollars in Federal funding during the 1990s to help insure that teachers have the skills and resources to provide students with a rich educational experience enhanced by advanced technology. Four Federal programs—the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund (TLCF), Technology Innovation Challenge Grants (TICG), Star Schools and the E-rate—all target funding for technology to high-poverty regions. In FY98 alone, Delta districts in Louisiana received $4,600,000 of the $5,900,000 in TLCF funding allocated by the State in subgrants directly to districts. For example, St. Barnard, Plaquemines, St. Charles, and Jefferson Parishes in Louisiana received a $425,000 TLCF grant in FY98 to provide teacher-training initiatives focused on technology-connected lessons in mathematics and language. Between FY98 and FY99, Concordia and Catahoula Parish Schools in Louisiana received over $2,600,000 in Federal TICG funding to expand the successful Trainer of Teachers program to poor, rural school districts in order to help teachers use technology to improve student learning in core academic subjects, such as English, mathematics, and science.


EARLE, ARKANSAS: On December 10, 1999, President Clinton announced an initiative from the MCI WorldCom Foundation to provide Internet training to kindergarten through 12th grade teachers throughout the Mississippi Delta region. The President and Secretary of Education Richard Riley recognized the MarcoPolo program, run by the MCI WorldCom Foundation and its partners for helping to better prepare K-12 teachers to integrate Internet content effectively into the classroom. This is a free educational program at website

At a high school dedication ceremony in Earle, Arkansas, the President announced MarcoPolo, “a generous new initiative coming not from government, but from the MCI WorldCom Foundation, to give the teachers at Earle High School and across the Delta region unprecedented access to the kind of world-class educational materials that in the past only the wealthiest school districts could afford… [MarcoPolo] contains lesson plans and resource materials on everything from history to math to art. These lesson plans for teachers have been developed by some of our finest teachers and academics. And they’re now available absolutely free over the Internet, thanks to MCI WorldCom.”

The Foundation will train—free of charge—as many as 4,500 district curriculum specialists throughout the seven-State Delta region. These specialists, in turn, will train over 100,000 teachers in the region on how to effectively incorporate the high quality MarcoPolo content into their day-to-day teaching.

Along with the President and Secretary Riley, the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities Bill Ferris, as well as the chief education officers from the seven Delta States, attended the Earle event. The President and Secretary Riley toured the Earle High School computer lab with students and Foundation staff and looked at MarcoPolo websites.

Secretary Riley said that the MarcoPolo Internet “’Content for the Classroom’ program builds upon the multi-billion dollar investment the Administration has made in technology over the past seven years. Thousands of schools across America have used Federal resources to purchase computers and to get connected to the Internet. Through this program, teachers can receive free training and resources to help bring high standards to the classroom.”

The Executive Director of the Foundation, Caleb Schutz, said, “This training, offered at no charge, is intended to impact every classroom in every school in all seven Delta States. MarcoPolo Internet training materials are standards-based and approved by panels of classroom teachers and content experts from around the country.”

The MarcoPolo program is a partnership among the Foundation and seven leading educational organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Council of Great City Schools, Kennedy Center, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Council of Economic Education, National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Geographic Society.

  • The following are examples of materials provided by the MarcoPolo Foundation site:

  • The EDSITEment website was developed by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Council of Great City Schools. EDSITEment provides teachers with roughly 50 content-based websites approved by a panel of peer reviewers and content experts.

  • The Codie Award-winning Xpeditions site, prepared in partnership with the National Geographic Society, features an interactive geography museum, standards-based lesson plans, and a global atlas of 1,800 maps (including every country in the world) which teachers can print for classroom use.

  • ArtsEdge, a site developed by the Kennedy Center in the early 1990s, is now undergoing numerous enhancements in preparation for a February 2000 launch as the newest MarcoPolo partner. ArtsEdge will provide online resources and lesson plans for K-12.

Update: On March 3, Ray Simon—Chief State School Officer for the Arkansas Department of Education—signed the agreement to roll out MarcoPolo throughout Arkansas. The MCI WorldCom Foundation will provide professional staff development training to 300 technology trainers, teachers and administrators who in turn are charged with delivering the training to every school district in Arkansas. The Foundation’s training will take place between May and July 2000 and will include 14 separate sessions. The State of Arkansas has an aggressive plan to impact every teacher by the end of the 2000-2001 school year. Their statewide training will be provided in a number of ways including: regional training sessions for teacher trainers, inter-school video conferencing, and summer professional development workshops.

Increased flexibility for states and schools: The increased flexibility provided to States and schools by the Department of Education has helped bring about improved student achievement. The Commission recommended in 1990 that Congress allow “States and/or school districts to employ innovative pilot projects to educate low-income, at-risk students.” Schools and districts were given greater authority to create their own reforms through the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Due in great part to the implementation of a research-based school-wide reform supported by Federal legislation and funding, the percentage of fourth graders in the Memphis City Public Schools scoring ‘proficient’ on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Writing Assessment increased from 20 percent in 1996 to 34 percent in 1997. According to the Memphis City School Superintendent, Dr. Gerry House, “the increased funding and flexibility in Federal programs support our goal of improving student achievement by focusing resources in a coordinated way to meet the diverse educational needs of our urban, poor children.”

In 1997, a pilot program called Ed-Flex granted 12 States (including Illinois) increased flexibility in decision-making on the use of Federal funds in exchange for increased accountability for improved student achievement. President Clinton signed legislation in 1999 expanding Ed-Flex eligibility to all 50 States.

Mathematics achievement: During the 1990’s, students in the Mississippi Delta have made the greatest achievement gains in mathematics. The Commission called for all Delta students to demonstrate “competency” in mathematics and science at “grades four, eight and twelve.” Results from the voluntary National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) demonstrate that mathematics scores have improved this decade in the three States where a majority of the population resides in the Delta region. NAEP test scores for fourth and eighth grade students in these States—Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi—improved by significant amounts between 1992 and 1996. For example, fourth grade students at the Glen Oaks Park Elementary School in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, have improved their median national percentile rank on the mathematics section of the California Achievement Test (CAT) from the 29th percentile in 1993 to the 75th percentile in 1997. The Federally funded Eisenhower Math/Science Educational Consortium has provided numerous teachers in the Delta with training aimed at improving teaching and learning. The Consortium recently funded Algebra Project training sessions for teachers in Jackson, Mississippi. Studies have demonstrated that the Algebra Project has had a beneficial impact in Jackson on student motivation and problem-solving skills.

Literacy levels: The LMDDC in 1990 called for an increase in “literacy” for children and adults in the Delta. Under the Clinton-Gore Administration’s America Reads Work-Study Program, the Federal government pays 100 percent of the wages of work-study students who tutor children or adults in literacy programs. Numerous colleges located in and near the Delta region take part in the America Reads program in order to help reach the President’s goal of ensuring that all children can read by the end of the third grade.

Federal funding has supported efforts in the Delta to improve literacy levels for both children and adults. Since instituting an innovative reading program through a $60,000 Department of Education grant in 1994, the Portland Elementary School in Ashley, Arkansas saw average third grade reading scores on the Stanford Achievement Test increase from the 25th percentile in 1993 to the 46th percentile in 1999. Over 1,400 adult learners in five Mississippi Delta counties in Louisiana—East Carroll, Madison, Tensas, Catahoula, and Concordia—are provided literacy training and life skills by a $330,000 matching Federal-State Adult Education grant.

Test Scores Improve at Newberry Elementary School

The Newberry Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee enrolls over 850 students in kindergarten through the fifth grade. Over fifty-five percent of the students at Newberry are eligible to receive free or reduced-price school lunches. Supported by Federal legislation passed in 1994 that expanded opportunities for school wide reforms, Newberry implemented a research-based reform model through New American Schools known as Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound (ELOB). Through adopting the ELOB model, educators at Newberry have instituted a school wide curriculum that centers on the purposeful, in-depth study of two or three projects each year from an interdisciplinary perspective. School projects usually take students outside the school and bring the community inside the school.

Students at Newberry have demonstrated dramatic improvements in writing. The number of fourth grade students scoring ‘proficient’ on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) Writing Assessment increased from 13 percent in 1994 to 79 percent in 1999. Teachers at Newberry foster a ‘culture of revision’ by maintaining writing portfolios for all students and providing real-life writing exercises. For example, during the 1998-99 school years, students were asked to write letters to local businesses requesting supplies to create a school garden. “When students write to business people in their own community requesting products, they are motivated by a desire to express themselves clearly and accurately,” explains Newberry fourth grade teacher Kelly Douglas.

Technology has helped students at Newberry improve their writing skills. Federal funding has allowed the Newberry school and similar schools across the country to substantially increase their number of computers and Internet hook-ups. “The Internet pushed the roof off the building and collapsed the walls. Now the whole world is our classroom,” explains Newberry Principal Marilyn Ingram.

Education Goals and Recommendations

Fundamentally, the major innovations pursued during the Clinton-Gore Administration need to be continued and expanded. These include the basic initiatives discussed above:

  • Title I and the various programs aimed at targeting improvements for low-income, rural students;

  • The President’s Class Size Reduction Initiative;

  • programs for supporting family literacy targeted to migrant workers and other disadvantaged groups;

  • policies aimed at enhancing the ability of teachers to provide an educational experience enhanced by computers and other advanced technology, including the Technology Literacy Fund, Technology Innovations Challenge Grants, Star Schools, and the E-rate;

  • the greater flexibility given to States and schools under the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the Ed-Flex program;

  • the various projects aimed at improving mathematics scores summarized above, such as the Algebra Project in Jackson; and

  • The America-Reads Work-Study Program and the other innovations encouraging reading skills.

In addition to the continuation and expansion of these policies, the following specific actions are proposed.

Technical assistance: The U.S. Department of Education will hold five comprehensive technical assistance workshops in Arkansas in the year 2000 for educators and community leaders from the 219 counties in the greater Mississippi Delta region. These technical Assistance training sessions are designed to assist educators in the Delta region to utilize Federal funding more efficiently, in applying for additional funds through competitive grants and in meeting specific requirements under Federal law.

Computers for Delta schools: The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recommends a government-wide technology transfer in the region. As the Federal government moves into the new millennium, many Federal agencies are undergoing major upgrades or replacements in personal computer hardware and software. Although the computers being replaced might no longer be useful for the agencies’ purposes, they still have value for other programs. These computers could make a major investment in the Delta’s human capital. Executive Order 12999 authorizes the transfer of surplus Federal computer equipment to America’s classrooms. These computers could be used by schools for computer training, reading and math skills proficiency, computer labs, and web access.

OPM has committed to contribute a percentage of the workstations that will be available after the “Y2K” upgrades, and in fact on March 1, 2000 donated ten computers to the Delta region. All of the signatories of the Delta 2000 Initiative should assist in this effort. There is no cost of implementing this recommendation. In accordance with the Department of Energy’s “Computers for Learning Partnership,” transportation to the Delta will be provided by shipping companies that are affiliated with the program. This computer transfer effort, combined with the Department of Education’s policies for enhancing technology in the classroom, will help the region’s trek into the information age. The gulf that precludes the Delta from realizing the dream and fulfilling the promise will only widen and deepen if access to the information age does not become a reality.

Safe and Drug Free schools: On March 9-10, 2000, more than one hundred educators from the seven Delta States gathered at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas for the Delta Safe Schools Conference. Arkansas State University President Les Wyatt opened the conference, while Safe and Drug Free School Program Director Bill Modzeleski gave the keynote address on school safety. The National Resource Center for Safe Schools provided the training sessions and the Department of Education provided presentations on available Federal resources. The Department of Education staff will provide information on funding opportunities from the Federal government aimed at promoting safe, disciplined, and drug-free learning environments. The National Center for Safe Schools will also provide follow-up technical assistance to participating schools.

Community colleges: The Office of Community College Liaison will coordinate rural community college technical assistance workshops open to all rural community colleges in the seven-State Delta region. This grant information workshop is part of a multi-agency series that has been coordinated by the Community College Liaison Office. A workshop took place at Phillips Community College in Helena, Arkansas on March 13-14, 2000. Community colleges in the seven-State Delta region brought staff to this workshop to attend training sessions that will strengthen their skills in seeking competitive grants, and heard presentations on existing program models that can be replicated in this region.

Standards: The Education Department’s Standards Team will convene a two-day technical assistance meeting during 2000 in the Delta region on assessments and accountability for Delta States involving national experts, State colleague trainers, and Department officials. This training workshop will be tailored to the needs of the area and include the opportunity for follow-up assistance from peer consultants. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about different approaches to school accountability and providing technical assistance to small and remote schools in need of improvement.


In 1999, Shawnee Community College, one of the partners in the Southernmost Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone (SIDEZ), received a 5-year $1.7 million U.S. Department of Education GEAR UP grant. Life-long learning and education is one of the zone’s seven priority goals, and the empowerment zone supported the GEAR UP application. The GEAR UP program is encouraging young people in the empowerment zone to have high expectations, stay in school, study hard and take the right courses to go to college. Four local schools in the Southern Illinois empowerment zone are participating. Other partners include the Regional Office of Education 02, Illinois GEAR UP Alliance, Southern Illinois Collegiate Common Market, Southern Seven Health Department and Alexander and Pulaski County Housing Authorities.

During the 1999-2000 school year, 235 seventh graders are participating. The GEAR UP program will work with these students for five years, adding a new class of seventh graders each year. The program anticipates working with 1165 students during the five-year grant period. Sixty-five to ninety-three percent of the students attending the four target schools are eligible for free or reduced price lunches. The percentage of minority students ranges from 24.5 percent to 88.5 percent in each district. Truancy ranges from two percent to 13.9 percent in the four target districts. Attrition is 12 percent in one school and 21.3 to 31.3 percent in the other three schools. Unemployment for Pulaski and Alexander Counties, where the schools are located, is more than double the State and national average.

The students have gone to plays and visited Southern Illinois University’s museum and aviation program. They have gone to St. Louis, Missouri to tour museums and a science center. All trips include instruction preceding and following the activities. In addition the students are receiving individual and small group counseling. They are encouraged to “think college early” with on-site visits from the GEAR UP coordinator. Career Days have been organized at several schools. Parents are involved. A summer academy is being planned.

The empowerment zone, Shawnee Development Council, (a local community action agency) and GEAR UP are working together to acquire funds to establish individual development accounts for each student to pay educational costs once they have graduated from high school.

The GEAR UP program is a powerful tool in improving educational achievement in the Southernmost Illinois Delta Empowerment Zone. It is through mutual support and partnerships that the zone anticipates achieving many of the strategies in its strategic plan.

Charter Schools: The Department of Education will hold a regional Charter School meeting in the Delta for State department of education officials and key educational leaders to discuss charter school programs and how best to administer these programs. During this two-day conference in 2000, the Charter School Program Office will also provide assistance to leaders in States that do not have charter schools (Tennessee and Kentucky) that will demonstrate the potential and opportunity that charter schools represent. Officials from Delta States with charter school legislation will share ideas and interact with experts in order to think about ways to expand the pool of charter schools.

The Brightest Youth of the Delta Ponder their Future

Marlon Henderson and Conn Davis are two of the brightest and most dynamic young people of today in the Mississippi Delta. Armed with excellent academic records, athletic accomplishments, and an impressive array of extracurricular activities, they can look forward to bright professional opportunities after they graduate from high school in the years beyond 2000.

Yet, like many of their classmates in the region, they face the dilemma that career opportunities appear brighter outside the region than within it, and they may not be able to fulfill their greatest professional aspirations if they stay at home after graduation. Davis and Henderson poignantly addressed this issue in their closing speeches at two of the Delta 2000 listening sessions held at Cape Girardeau, Missouri and West Memphis, Arkansas in the fall of 1999.

Conn Q. Davis is a senior at East Prairie High School in southeast Missouri’s Delta. He is a football player, concerned about community issues, and is a superb student who plans to attend the University of Missouri-Columbia to major in computer engineering and then enter medical school. Davis spoke movingly at Cape Girardeau of the benefits of growing up in the small town of East Prairie (population—approximately 3,500):

“Because I am from a small town, I have felt safe and protected from many of the problems that face larger communities and urban areas. I have been able to develop close-knit friendships with virtually everyone in my community…. These factors have made me very secure and helped build my self-confidence. Growing up in a rural area, I have learned what a dollar is worth and to respect the hard-working people around me.”

Despite these benefits from growing up in the rural Delta, Davis also faces the social and economic problems of the region: the standard of living is much lower than in most urban areas, there are fewer opportunities to be influenced by the arts, and the career opportunities in a small town are far fewer than those in more populated areas. He acknowledged that the public school system in his town is excellent, yet he cannot afford to have a wide selection of classes. He can enroll in “just the bare necessities.”

Davis said he thought he had been able “to overcome some of the shortcomings of my community” largely through the support of his family. Considering the implications of those shortcomings for his children, however, he had a sobering conclusion: although growing up in the Missouri Delta positively influenced his life, “I am very doubtful that I will return to East Prairie after medical school. As much as I want to raise my family in a safe and caring community, I also want my children to be exposed to more cultural, educational, and career opportunities than myself. I feel that this will be a necessary element for success in our growing global market.”

Marlon Henderson faces a similar challenge growing up in northeast Arkansas. A junior in Jonesboro’s Nettleton High School, Henderson excels academically, in basketball and in extracurricular activities. He is considering a career in law. He, too, spoke with deep feeling about his ties to east Arkansas in his speech introducing his mentor—another native of east Arkansas—Secretary Rodney Slater at the West Memphis listening session on September 25, 1999. The Secretary knows Henderson personally and has taken an interest in encouraging the young man’s educational and professional development. “The Delta region is not merely an artifact defined by legislation; it has a binding cultural perspective and a sense of place, where history is increasingly felt and vividly remembered.”

Henderson spoke of the opportunities represented in transportation—“highways are about more than concrete, asphalt, and steel—they are the tie that binds. Highways are the access to opportunity.” Yet he went on to reflect, “Unfortunately, that opportunity most often lies outside of the Delta. As a junior in high school expecting to be entering the work force in the year 2005 in the corporate world, unless there are significant changes in the Delta I may have to leave the Delta to find employment.” He said he hoped the Delta 2000 initiative would be able to “advance economic opportunity in the Delta region…. I hope it will make the difference in the future of the graduates beyond 2000.”

The speeches by Henderson and Davis represented two of the most poignant moments in the entire series of Clinton Administration meetings in the Delta. They were articulate young people who spoke movingly of both their respect for their home area as well as the realities that greater career opportunities may lie elsewhere. The “brain drain” of the Delta’s best and brightest youth poses one of the greatest challenges to its future development.

Many other youths in the region face the same difficult decisions as do Conn Davis and Marlon Henderson. In a series on the Mississippi Delta published in December, 1999, the Jackson, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger addressed the problem of “brain drain.” Most of the young people interviewed by the Clarion-Ledger expressed views similar to those of Davis and Henderson. For example, Mississippi Valley State University senior Tamika James of Indianola, Mississippi plans to leave for Houston, Texas, when she graduates. “Here, they don’t pay enough. I’d stay if the pay was better,” she said.

Similarly, Preston Nailor of Vicksburg, a freshman at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, said, “It’s nice up here, but I’m looking for more job opportunities.” He plans to move on to the University of Tennessee Medical School in Memphis.

Of course, not all young people in the region plan to leave. The Clarion-Ledger quoted Anitra Joiner of Greenville, a Delta State freshman, who said, “There are big needs in health care in the Delta. I could come back in later years.”

Another Delta State freshman, Kabesha Morgan of Senatobia, has dreams of being a part of the solution to Mississippi’s critical shortage of teachers. She plans on a career in teaching at a Cleveland, Mississippi elementary school. Ms. Morgan speaks of intangibles other than money: “I like the area—it’s friendly. I like the scenery. It’s not about the money at all. It is giving back to the community. I’m optimistic the economy will improve and people will be coming here.”

Whether they stay at home or pursue opportunities elsewhere, no one can deny that the Delta has created sons and daughters who are as talented and dynamic as those of any region in America. For now, they harbor the hope—as eloquently expressed by Marlon Henderson in east Arkansas—that current initiatives for advancing future opportunities will make the vital difference for today’s generation of the Mississippi Delta. (END SIDEBAR)


The Departments of Commerce, HUD, EPA, Energy, Transportation and USDA’s Rural Development have brought vital local infrastructure projects to the region, such as adequate water and sewer systems, telecommunications, electricity and natural gas, rural health care, public safety and other projects needed for economic development and improved quality of life. For example, the Department of Commerce programs provided more than 370 grants totaling over $114 million in the Delta from 1993 to mid-1999. The total funding for the 219-county area from Rural Development’s Community Facilities, Rural Business Programs, and Water & Waste programs amounted to approximately $858,224,000 from 1993 to mid-1999. The Rural Utilities Service (RUS) provided first-time telephone service to more than 8,200 rural residents, while more than 77,000 residents received improved telecommunications due to $153,858,750 in RUS financing.

In addition to traditional infrastructure, the RUS Distance Learning and Telemedicine program combined improvements in access to health care and educational opportunities in the health care field for approximately 800,000 residents in the region by providing $9,840,161 in grant and loan funds.

Infrastructure Goals and Recommendations

Electric: The Electric Program General Field Representatives that cover the Delta region will conduct a survey to determine areas that are not served or are underserved with electric power. The Electric Program will give special consideration to rural electric cooperatives serving counties in the Delta region that qualify for the Hardship (5%) Program. The Administrator also will use his authority to make all or part of an application eligible for the hardship loan program if the situation warrants the change. Loan funds cannot be set aside for one region or area under the program authorization and regulations.

Telecommunications: The Telecommunications Program General Field Representatives that cover the Delta region will conduct a survey to determine areas that are not served or are underserved with modern, affordable telecommunications services. Loans that come in from those areas will be given as much priority as possible under the law.

In addition, the Telecommunications Program will work with colleges, schools, and medical centers in the region to conduct seminars to explain both what can be done in a community with the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Loan and Grant program and how applications should be prepared and submitted. At least two seminars at different locations in the Delta will be held. This will improve the capacity building of communities in the region and enable them to apply for the loans and grants to improve education and health care opportunities. USDA’s 2001 proposed budget nationally includes $325 million in loans and grants for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program, an increase of $104 million over the 2000 program level. This increased budget is for the national program, but predominantly rural areas such as the Delta will be the beneficiaries of the increases. The proposed budget will increase the opportunities for Delta residents to gain financing in order to access information for educational and health care needs. Additionally, using the DLT program as a model, the 2001 budget includes $2 million in grants and $100 million in loans for a pilot program focused on financing the installation of broadband transmission capacity and local dial-up Internet services in underserved rural areas.

Water and waste programs: EPA’s Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds (CWSRF and DWSRF) provide substantial funding for low-interest loans for a broad range of infrastructure projects, including the construction or improvement of wastewater treatment plants, management of stormwater and sewer overflows, and implementation of polluted runoff control projects. In addition, the DWSRF is providing financing for the installation, upgrading, or replacement of water infrastructure to ensure that systems provide drinking water that meets all public health standards. In recognition of the special needs facing small systems, a minimum of 15% of the funds available through the DWSRF must go to systems serving fewer than 10,000 persons. Also, to assist rural communities where even a low-interest loan may not be affordable, States have the option of providing additional subsidies to disadvantaged systems through their DWSRF, including forgiveness of principal and extended loan repayment terms. The Rural Utilities Service funds water and waste projects on a year-round basis, with project selection based on a priority scoring system. Included in the priority system are discretionary points. State Directors can award discretionary points to high priority areas for funds allocated to the States by formula. The National Office can award such points for requests to use National Reserve funds. The RUS will continue to use discretionary points at both the State and National levels; Delta projects would become one of the high priority categories for receiving formula and National Reserve funds.

Technical assistance and training grants: The RUS awards grants on a competitive basis after January 1 for applications submitted from October through December. The program supports technical assistance and training related to water and wastewater project development, operations and maintenance. The providers are local, regional and national non-profit organizations. RUS is in a position to give special consideration to applicants that would serve targeted geographic areas. RUS would make special efforts to encourage and invite applications for projects that specifically target technical assistance and training efforts to Delta communities.

Solid Waste Management Grants: The Rural Utilities Service uses Solid Waste Management Grants to fund projects to reduce or eliminate pollution of water resources and improve planning and management of solid waste sites. Project prioritization can include special consideration for targeted geographic areas. The RUS would make special efforts to encourage applications for projects that specifically address the solid waste needs of the Delta region.

National Rural Water Association (NRWA) contract: Each year the RUS contracts with the NRWA to provide technical assistance to eligible water systems, using funds earmarked by Congress. NRWA circuit riders work with system owners and operators in addressing operational and maintenance issues. The RUS would ask the NRWA to provide additional circuit rider assistance to the Delta, to meet system operation and maintenance needs.

Energy supply and delivery: Assuring an adequate, reliable supply of electric power to the Delta is crucial for the economy. Industry will not locate new businesses and factories without reliable power. The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Rural Utilities Service pursue a variety of programs for supporting electric infrastructure. DOE conducts numerous research and grant programs that support this critical infrastructure, benefiting public and private utilities, universities, small businesses, farms and families. Three modern nuclear power plants are located in the region: Riverbend in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, Waterford in St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, and Grand Gulf in Claiborne County, Mississippi. These plants produce large amounts of electric power—over a third of the region’s entire electricity supply—without emitting noxious fumes displacing tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The emissions associated with acid rain and global climate change are not emitted from the region’s nuclear power plants, thereby maintaining economic development without damaging air quality.

Beginning in fiscal year 2000, the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy Plant Optimization (NEPO) program will work with utilities in the Delta and elsewhere to develop new technologies to assure that these economically vital power plants continue supporting sustainable, environmentally responsible economic growth well into the 21st century. The Department of Energy also works with the region’s universities, in cooperation with local electric utilities, to provide research and technology development. This year a new grant was awarded to Louisiana State University. DOE’s nuclear technology program provides substantial support to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (such as Southern University and Xavier University in Louisiana, Tennessee State University, and others) including grants and scholarships.

The constructive energy policies summarized above should continue to be supported in the years beyond 2000.

(Note: Issues related to infrastructure are discussed throughout many of the sections of this Report; see the sections on revitalizing the region’s economy, especially the material on the Department of Commerce activities; community development; transportation; telemedicine and housing.)


In reviewing and revising the goals and recommendations from the original 1990 LMDDC Report, it is readily apparent that many changes have occurred during the past decade. For example, the relationship of the Federal government to State governments has evolved from that of grantor/grantee to more of a partnership seeking to accomplish mutual goals and objectives. Welfare reform and changes in the delivery system for health care have opened unexpected doors of opportunity, leading some providers to seek new funding sources, such as contractual health care arrangements for veterans and military personnel. Overall, there is recognition at the Federal level that successful programs require local community involvement. When setting the agenda, it is important to include those to be served, and such inclusion requires a recognition and acknowledgment of geographic and cultural differences. Accountability requirements at all levels of government are calling for common benchmark setting, performance measurement and evaluation of programs. Innovative partnerships have emerged, putting government agencies and community-based organizations (traditional partners) in coalitions and collaborations with faith-based organizations, foundations and other non-traditional partners.

Medicaid: Through HHS’ review and revision of Medicaid plans, HHS and the Delta States have been working in partnership to maximize Medicaid coverage for eligible recipients and increase coverage to the working poor not previously covered through State plans. Title XXI (the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP) has allowed States to expand access to health care coverage through Medicaid and new State-designed insurance programs. The Department has exercised its authority under the Social Security Act to expand health care coverage.

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) now partners with Medicaid to assure that transitional Medicaid services are available to TANF recipients as they move from public assistance to self-sufficiency. Moreover, in March 1999, HHS issued a guide to States that in part sets out opportunities the States have under the law to expand coverage under Medicaid to low-income working families. HHS will be contacting all States about these opportunities as well as reviewing how effectively they coordinate Medicaid and TANF.

Other health programs: The HHS guide also reviews a series of programs for improving health care access for senior citizens, minorities, and HIV/AIDS treatment and services in the Delta. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (called ASTDR, this is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has been working through the Mississippi Delta Project: Health and Environment, a partnership among Federal, State and local governments, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), faith-based organizations, community organizations, and environmental advocacy groups in 219 counties in the Delta. This initiative includes health education, training and research. The research projects are designed as models for developing partnerships regarding environmental and public health-related concerns in the region. For example, the ASTDR has developed an Assessment Protocol for Excellence in Environmental Health that has been used in pilot projects in Arkansas and Mississippi to identify environmental hazards. In fiscal year 1999, the ASTDR implemented this protocol in Memphis, Tennessee, in collaboration with the Memphis-Shelby County Health Department and local community groups. ASTDR is also working with EPA as well as State and local health officials and environmental justice advocates on an initiative based in Memphis and other Delta areas focusing on environmental justice issues. This effort primarily involves minority and low-income people regarding environmental health issues.

HIV/AIDS: The HIV/AIDS Bureau of HHS Health Resources and Services Administration targets medical services for unserved or underserved populations. This program involves formula grants awarded to States to improve the quality, availability, and organization of health care and support services for people living with HIV. The AIDS Drug Assistance Program provides assistance in providing HIV/AIDS medical therapies to uninsured or underinsured people. A Special Projects of National Significance Program provides funding to public and private nonprofit entities to assist in the development of innovative models of HIV care. For example, a project at the University of Mississippi Medical Center is enhancing the capacity of health care providers in rural clinics to diagnose and treat HIV by expanding the Delta AIDS Education and Training Center’s capacity to provide clinical training. In particular, this project gives training for rural health care providers with a computer-based distance learning system. For areas of the highest HIV incidence, the Center makes available updated medical references, means for interactive training, and access to sources of additional HIV funding.

Childcare: The Head Start program provides early childhood education to young people throughout the nation, and the Delta in particular enjoyed substantial increases in the number of children enrolled from 1990 to 1998. In Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, the number of children enrolled in Head Start expanded from 41,996 in 1990 to 55,248 in 1998. Head Start in the Delta in recent years has increasingly placed emphasis on full-day, full-year models that meet childcare needs of working parents.

The Child Care Development Fund, which is the primary source of Federal funds to States, Indian Tribal Organizations and territories to assist low-income families to pay for childcare, has had a major impact in the Delta. A series of initiatives for improving childcare are now underway. The Child Care and Head Start bureaus have launched a new training and technical assistance initiative, Quality in Linking Together: Early Education Partnerships (QUILT), which will work with State, tribal, and regional leaders to develop a strategic approach to support early education partnerships at the local level.

A Head Start/Child Care Workgroup has been established to address the need for full-day, full-year services to children and families. Members from central as well as regional offices of Head Start, Child Care and QUILT are developing strategies for combining resources, sharing information on training and technical assistance. The Healthy Child Care America Campaign is a collaborative effort of health professionals, child care providers, and families that has developed a Blueprint for Action, which identifies goals for child care and suggests specific ways of achieving these goals. The Delta Website discusses in detail a series of other childcare initiatives on childhood immunization, dissemination of childcare information, and related issues.

Youth services: The Family Youth Services Bureau provides programs that serve vulnerable youth in the Delta. The Basic Center Program provides temporary shelter to runaway youth while working to reunite them with their families when possible. The Transitional Living Program provides long-term residential, educational and vocational resources to homeless youth. This program works to keep youth from dropping out of school, and it especially focuses on helping teenage parents make the transition to work and self-sufficiency, thereby preventing them from becoming dependent on public assistance. There are two Basic Center shelters and a Transitional Living Program in Jackson, Mississippi, and a Basic Center shelter in Vicksburg, Mississippi. There are four Basic Centers in Arkansas, five in Louisiana, three in Kentucky, and Tennessee has several Centers, including one in Memphis.

Teen pregnancy: Teen pregnancy decreased in the years from 1991 to the mid-1990s in the Delta, but is still too high. Arkansas and Louisiana reduced their rates of teen pregnancies by a higher percentage than the nation as a whole between 1991 and 1995: Arkansas’ reduction was by 7.9 percent and Louisiana reduced its rate by 8.2 percent, as compared to the national reduction of 6.5 percent. Mississippi’s rate decreased by 5.9 percent. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, a private nonprofit organization, was formed in response to the President’s 1995 State of the Union address, and in 1997 the President announced the National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Through these efforts, HHS has developed partnerships with national, State and local organizations, private business, faith-based organizations, tribal organizations, parents and other family members, and adolescents.

Infant mortality: Infant mortality declined overall in the 219 Delta counties during the last decade. Those counties experienced a 16.6 percent reduction in infant mortality between the aggregated average calculated for the four-year period 1986 through 1989 and the period 1994 through 1997; for those same periods, the national infant mortality rate declined by 25 percent.

For the densely populated counties of Pulaski, Arkansas; Hinds, Mississippi; Shelby, Mississippi; and East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Orleans, Ouachita, Rapides, and St. Tammany Parishes in Louisiana, there were 12.42 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990. That number gradually declined in the 1990s, falling to 10.71 in 1997 (the most recent year for which statistics are available). Thus, infant mortality rates declined by approximately 14 percent from 1990 to 1997 in these eight Delta counties.

These major population centers in the Delta still lag behind the national average, however, which declined from 9.22 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 7.23 in 1990, a decrease of 22 percent. Even more disturbing was the plight of minority infant mortality rates compared to whites in the Delta. For example, in Mississippi, African-Americans’ infant death rates fell from 15.5 to 14.7 per 1,000 live births from 1989 to 1996; similar statistics for Arkansas showed a decline from 15.5 to 13.8, and in Louisiana a decline from 15.6 to 14.7. But these rates are approximately double those of whites in these three States. The rates for people of all ethnic backgrounds declined from 11.7 to 10.8 in Mississippi, 9.9 to 9.1 in Arkansas, and 11.0 to 9.8 in Louisiana.

Rural health care: The 1990 LMDDC recommended a careful review of Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements to investigate inequities in payments to rural hospitals. The Medicaid program now provides the following options:

  • Add-on Payment: States currently have considerable latitude in determining rates of payment in the Medicaid program. Rural hospitals receive Medicaid funding as described in their State plans. One way for a State to take into account the unique position of rural hospitals is to establish within that State’s Medicaid plan a methodology that specifically targets rural hospitals. Through a State Plan Amendment, a State could elect to institute a special add-on payment for rural hospitals in addition to their regular reimbursement.

  • Disproportionate Share Hospital Program: Another avenue of flexibility currently open to States is the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) program. Within certain Federal limits, States can designate any group of hospitals as qualifying for DSH payments, including rural hospitals. States can amend their State plans to implement a DSH payment that would be geared toward their rural hospitals: the qualifications for this DSH payment can be crafted in such a way that any uncompensated care costs incurred by rural hospitals could be met through the State’s DSH program. Such an option would be feasible to the extent that these hospitals have incurred uncompensated free care and Medicaid costs, and provided that the State’s DSH methodology overall does not cause the State to exceed the hospital-specific DSH payment limits or the State’s statutorily-defined DSH allotment.

The Medicare program provides:

  • Rural Referral Centers: Rural Referral Centers (RRCs) were first identified for special consideration in the 1983 Prospective Payment System (PPS) legislation. Congressional intent was to recognize that, within rural areas, there were hospitals that provided care in a volume and with the sophistication of hospitals in urban areas. These hospitals serve as “referral” sites for rural physicians and other community hospitals that may lack the resources or expertise to handle cases outside the norm. Any hospital that was classified as a RRC in 1991 and had since lost that status was grandfathered back into the RRC program by the Balanced Budget Act in 1997. In addition, the BBA made it easier for RRCs to get a higher wage index under PPS.

  • Medicare-Dependent Hospitals: The Medicare-Dependent Hospital (MDH) program was reinstated by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The Medicare-Dependent Hospital designation was originally created under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1989. It provided extra financial assistance to rural hospitals with fewer than 100 beds that had 60% or more of inpatient days or discharges attributable to Medicare patients. Originally, the Medicare Dependent Hospital designation was set to expire for cost reporting periods ending on or before March 31, 1993. The Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 extended the designation until September 30, 1994 with a smaller financial benefit for MDH status. The Balanced Budget Act reinstated the MDH program for cost reporting periods beginning on or after October 1, 1997 and before October 1, 2001.

In 1998, the Balanced Budget Act provided funding to States to help stabilize small rural hospitals, develop networks and integrate emergency medical services in rural areas. These development grants are being made under the State Rural Hospital Flexibility Program, authorized at $125 million through fiscal year 2002. With a $25 million appropriation for fiscal year 1999, this new grant program will help stabilize rural hospitals and improve access to health services in rural communities. Grants will be awarded to States for: (1) developing and implementing rural health plans with broad collaboration; (2) stabilizing rural hospitals by helping them consider, plan for, and obtain designation as “Critical Access Hospitals” (CAH); (3) supporting CAHs, providers and communities as they develop networks of care; and (4) helping improve and integrate emergency medical services.

Hospitals designated as Critical Access Hospitals will receive cost-based payments from the Medicare program. Medicare payments to all other hospitals will not change. Delta States have the option of participating in this program.

Health Care Goals and Recommendations

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) maximizes health care coverage, including behavioral health. For example, Delta States had close to $450 million available to them in SCHIP allotments secured through FY 1999. To ensure optimal use of available dollars and enroll more eligible families, States should review eligibility standards, policies, procedures and points-of-entry and improve outreach activities. Potential costs for these efforts would be supported through activities within the Department, which include the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) SCHIP program, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Block Grant (MCHBG) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) funds for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians health program under a Self Governance Compact.

Telehealth: A Delta-specific model should be developed to assess current and predict future demand for health service personnel. “Telehealth” is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. The use of “telehealth” technologies and mid-level practitioners or alternative providers (including youth development workers, consumers and family members providing peer support and outreach services) offers great potential to improve health care access in the Delta. In fiscal year 2000, HRSA’s funding was roughly $20 million for telehealth grants through its Office for the Advancement of Telehealth.

Health surveillance: The Federal government should pursue, with Tribal, State and local governments, universities and voluntary organizations, the development of an effective public health surveillance system for the Delta. To target disease prevention/health promotion programs and services for improving environmental quality, an effective monitoring system containing the following is needed: 1) information on cases of disease, injuries, and environmental exposures; 2) analysis of the data; 3) dissemination of organized data to workers, health care providers, governmental agencies and the public; and 4) interventions to reduce health problems and risk factors. Funding to support improvements in public health capacity for surveillance through the Health Alert Network Program at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can be utilized to support this recommendation. In addition, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians participates in active disease surveillance through the use of public health nurses and community outreach workers (community health representatives) through the assistance of both IHS and CDC.

Rural health: The Delta States and Health Care Finance Administration (HCFA) should investigate inequities in funding rural health care delivery systems in the Medicaid and Medicare programs. HCFA is committed to helping ensure that all health care delivery systems are adequately and equitably funded and will continue to specifically take into consideration the unique needs of rural areas. HCFA is currently conducting a Rural Health Workgroup that is investigating these issues and identifying areas for improvement.

Veterans issues: Nearly 30 percent of the Delta’s adult male population are veterans eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) services and benefits ranging from medical care to home loan guarantees. The efficient delivery of these services and benefits to veterans and their families will continue to play an important role in the region’s economic development and quality of life—sending citizens to school to improve job skills, making homeownership affordable, and maintaining the health and vigor of a significant portion of the working population.

VA is and will continue to be a leader in meeting the health care needs of older Americans. Compared to the general population, the veteran population is more elderly, with much greater percentages in the oldest age groups. For example, three-quarters of Delta males age 70-74 are veterans. Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs), hospital-based home care programs and mobile medical clinics will deliver health care to older veterans who find travel increasingly difficult. VA will also continue to play a key role in meeting the long-term health care needs of the region through support of State veterans nursing homes and close cooperation with the private sector nursing home industry.

VA’s commitment to the Delta’s progress is manifest through its commitment to serving the region’s veterans, as this following list of VA regional goals and recommendations illustrates:

  • Placement of more Community Based Outpatient Clinics throughout the region;

  • Operating mobile health screening clinics and home-care programs;

  • Expanding and strengthening VA medical center teaching and research affiliations with academic institutions to develop and retain home-grown health care resources within the region;

  • Providing pharmaceutical support for residents of State veterans homes to stretch each Delta State’s long-term health care resources; and

  • Increasing awareness and participation in VA’s homeless grants programs in Delta communities and encouraging VA partnerships with community providers of services for the homeless.

Comprehensive services: Technical assistance should be provided to create a seamless integrated system of comprehensive services. Practitioners and providers who serve uninsured, underserved and/or rural populations should have assistance from categorical Federal and local funding streams to create a “one-stop” system of care. Communities in the Delta region may be eligible to compete for grants under the Health Care Access for the Uninsured Initiative. In FY 1999, HRSA launched a $300,000 pilot project entitled the “Delta Health Venture,” to serve 10 counties in the Northwest corner of Mississippi to coordinate and target HRSA resources through convening key stakeholders to better address the health needs in these ten counties. In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will continue to provide technical assistance on the screening and treatment for mental health and substance abuse disorders in primary care settings and other settings through the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant set-aside and the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant set-aside in the amount of $16.6 million in FY 1999.

Health care professionals: Through mentoring and support in the public schools for health careers, there should be an increase in the number of health care professionals willing to serve in the Delta. Through HRSA, the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) works with local communities to develop locally sponsored scholars to enter medical school and return to serve their community.

Increase federal funding for child care to assist low-income working families: As requested in the President’s FY 2001 budget, Congress should pass bipartisan legislation to increase funding for child care subsidies, and to expand child and dependent care tax credits. The President has requested an increase of $817 million in childcare subsidies over the fiscal year 2000 amounts, for a fiscal year 2001 total of $4.6 billion. He has also requested that child and dependent care tax credits be expanded by $7.5 billion over the next five years. This program will assist low-income families and those transitioning off welfare to obtain childcare so they can work or attend training/education. A total of $436.6 million was made available to the seven Mississippi Delta region States in FY 1999. This does not include State share of matching funds and maintenance of efforts. The proposed commitment of Federal Block Grant funds for these seven States total $490.5 million.

Childcare education: Through consumer education, we should increase parents’ awareness for the importance of developmentally appropriate, quality childcare. ACF’s Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) stipulates that a minimum of four percent of CCDBG funds be used to improve the quality of child care and offer additional services to parents, such as resource and referral counseling regarding the selection of appropriate child care providers to meet their child’s needs.

Substance abuse prevention: Delta communities should increase their use of broad-based coalitions in their substance abuse prevention efforts and in their efforts to provide adequate treatment resources by involving parents and families, the entire range of governmental entities (Tribes, States and local agencies), schools, police, other health and human service providers, the faith community and advocacy groups. In 1999, HHS launched the activities of the National Tobacco Control Program (NTCP). The NTCP funds all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and U.S. Territories, receiving on average $1 million per State. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has supported $179.2 million in prevention and treatment services in the Delta States in FY 1999. In fiscal year 2000, SAMHSA will fund an estimated $185 million in prevention and treatment services through the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant.

Teen pregnancy: A youth development fund to support community-based adolescent pregnancy prevention activities is needed. Each State should partner with local action teams to create an interagency State-local fund to support youth development programs that include job skills courses, childcare cooperatives and adult mentoring. School-based health clinics are supported through funding in HRSA’s bureaus of Primary Health Care and Maternal and Child Health. Environment: States could create environmental research centers in institutions of higher education that should focus on environmental research, including solid and hazardous waste research. These centers should become part of a larger Delta consortium to assure technology transfer and share research and technical information, both regionally and nationally. Through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), The Mississippi Delta Project: Health and the Environment, is a multi-phase initiative designed to identify and address environmental and other factors that negatively impact upon human health status. During Phase I, four profiles were developed: Health and Demographics, Environmental Health Hazards, Health Professions, and Educational Resources. The purpose of Phase II is to develop demonstration projects to respond to recommendations from the profiles. In FY 2000, through the Minority Health Professions Foundation, $350,000 will be awarded to up to seven community-based organizations through the Lower Mississippi Delta region to support these demonstration projects.


“We can’t let that kind of poverty exist…I don’t think people really know that little school children are slowly starving in the United States of America. I didn’t know it.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., after a trip to Marks, Mississippi where he visited African-American school children in 1966

“There are others from whom we avert our sight. Some of them … are on the back roads of Mississippi, where thousands of children slowly starve their lives away, their minds damaged beyond repair by the age of four or five.”

Senator Robert F. Kennedy, speaking in 1967 about hunger and poverty in the rural Mississippi Delta

In 1966 and 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy riveted the nation’s attention on the terrible plight of hunger in the Mississippi Delta. Dr. King was shocked by the hunger he saw when visiting schools in Marks and other Mississippi Delta towns, and he began the process of focusing the nation’s attention upon the dilemma of hungry children in the midst of a prosperous nation. During 1967, Senator Kennedy toured the Delta and afterward wrote to President Lyndon Johnson of the “shocking and widespread” hunger he saw in the region. As a member of the Senate Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Poverty, Kennedy went with Marian Wright Edelman, now head of the Children’s Defense Fund, civil rights leader Charles Evers, and others to the poorest places in the Delta. Edelman recalled Kennedy holding children with bellies swollen from malnutrition and lamenting, “How can a country like this allow it? Maybe they just don’t know.”

Partly as a result of the national outcry generated by King, Kennedy and others in that era, the hunger safety net has been strengthened for the Delta and other depressed areas of America: food stamps; school lunch; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and the Cooperative Extension nutrition programs have become bulwarks in the fight against hunger in America. While, happily, it is no longer easy to find the flagrant instances of hunger and malnutrition that existed in the 1960’s, there are still too many people in the Delta who do not have secure access at all times to a high-quality, reasonably affordable food supply. One is too many.

The more subtle, but nonetheless serious problem of hunger and food insecurity in the prosperous world of the year 2000 confronts the basic dilemma Kennedy identified three decades ago—the reality that many prosperous Americans are unaware that so many people, especially children, often go to bed hungry in underdeveloped areas like the Delta. As Robert Kennedy said then, “I believe as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil.”

Food security: Vice President Al Gore, working with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, convened the 1997 National Summit on Food Security to awaken public consciousness about this persistent problem. The Vice President emphasized the need to support the bedrock anti-hunger programs such as school lunch, WIC, and food stamps. The Vice President endorsed the efforts of USDA and other Federal agencies to work with private anti-hunger institutions to expand field gleaning activities to provide food for the hungry, and to increase the amount of food rescued from being thrown away and given to food banks and similar organizations. Also, President Clinton signed the Good Samaritan Act, which reduced liability concerns for good faith donors of food to anti-hunger organizations. The Lower Mississippi Delta Nutrition Intervention Research Initiative and other anti-hunger organizations have played an important role in the quest to promote adequate nutrition in the region.

Nutrition education: The 1990 LMDDC specifically recommended that residents of the Delta should have access to health education programs, of which food security and nutrition are vital parts. As an example of research on the food security issue, USDA’s Economic Research Service Geographic Information System (GIS) analyzed access to grocery stores in the Delta. The analysis combined data on the location and sales of grocery stores by postal ZIP code with the location of all consumers, as well as consumers with incomes below the poverty level. The analysis demonstrated that substantial areas in the region are underserved by grocery stores, leaving substantial numbers of residents with little access to stores offering a wide variety of food at reasonable distances.

The Delta Nutrition Research Initiative: In response to the nutrition needs of the Delta, USDA joined with community leaders and nutrition experts in the region to form the Lower Mississippi Delta Nutrition Intervention Research Initiative. The mission of this Initiative is to evaluate nutritional health in the Delta, and to help develop successful strategies for addressing nutritional problems on a larger scale. Participating institutions include Alcorn State University, Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Southern University, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and the University of Southern Mississippi.

The Delta Nutrition Intervention Research Initiative completed a survey of 36 Delta counties and parishes in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi on nutrition and health problems, community resources available to address them, and other community-based food security issues. The Initiative completed a “Foods of Our Delta Survey” that studied dietary intake data and conducted pilot projects on food security, health preferences, and food assistance programs. The Initiative continues to pursue ongoing nutritional research projects, as part of the overall effort to expand public awareness of the persistent problem of hunger and inadequate nutrition, and to develop sound models to address those problems.

Despite the progress, problems persist in the health and human services arena, particularly in providing appropriate services to low-income and minority Delta residents. HHS, USDA, other Federal agencies and their State, local, and private partners are committed to building upon the accomplishments made thus far in the 1990s to bring equal opportunities in health and human services to the people of the Delta.

Hunger and Food Security Goals and Recommendations

The goal of eliminating hunger in the Delta continues to be a high priority of the Federal government, and will continue to be addressed in a variety of aggressive ways:

  • Food Stamps, Child Nutrition, and Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC)

  • Continuing the USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s (FNS) food stamp public education campaign: In support of President Clinton’s desire to help working families have better access to the Food Stamp Program, FNS has begun a public education campaign to let the public know about the program’s availability to the working poor. The agency will continue to educate working families about food stamps through informational materials and its enhanced toll-free hotline. It will also release a new USDA Food Stamp Toolkit that will provide State, local, and community leaders with clear information about the food stamp law’s requirements and the best ways to access the program.

  • Expanding the after-school “snack” program: FNS is continuing to work with its regional offices to ensure that State and local-level program operators have the information and materials necessary to implement the after-school snack provision of the National School Lunch Program and the Child and Adult Care Food Program so that more children have access to healthful meals after school.

  • Improving the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and expanding it to more eligible areas in Mississippi: In cooperation with Congressman Bennie Thompson (MS), FNS is finding ways to improve the program and expand it to more eligible women, infants, and children in many Mississippi counties.

Farmers’ Markets and Nutrition

Expanding the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program: FNS is working to expand the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program to more States and to wider areas within States where the program now exists. Five of the seven Delta States—Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Kentucky, and Illinois—are in the program. Louisiana and Tennessee certainly would be welcomed into the program. Seventy percent of the funding comes from Federal sources, benefiting both WIC participants as well as small farmers. The participants are able to enjoy fresh, wholesome produce while small local farmers gain financially by expanding their markets to the WIC population.

Helping more farmers’ markets participate in the Food Stamp Program: FNS is working on ways to help farmers accept electronic benefit transfer (EBT) payments at their markets so that they will be able to participate in the program.

Food Security Issues

Supporting community kitchen and food bank networks by giving them more of the commodities available through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP): FNS is supporting these networks by targeting many of the bonus commodities that become available to TEFAP. Such efforts help strengthen the infrastructure of these organizations and allow them to support activities such as gleaning and food recovery.

Focusing on minority nutrition issues: FNS is aware that minorities have certain diet-related problems that need to be addressed to improve their nutritional status. At every opportunity FNS is scheduling meetings and other forms of outreach to address this very important issue.

Setting up conferences with State governors to discuss initiatives to combat hunger and improve nutrition: FNS has been making these meetings a priority for its Under Secretary, Deputy Under Secretary, and Agency Administrator.

Forming partnerships with both public and private organizations to work on initiatives to fight hunger. FNS makes it a priority to work with such organizations as the National Urban League, hunger advocates, Congressional staffs, and Federal, State, and local agencies on ways to fight hunger and malnutrition.

Promoting good nutrition and healthful eating practices among adolescent African-American males and their families: FNS has signed an interagency agreement with the Centers for Disease Control to supplement a CDC Conference Support Grant awarded to the 100 Black Men of America, Inc., for the “National Summit on Childhood Obesity.” Next fiscal year the agency will provide the 100 Black Men of America with additional funding to support their development of curriculum material for this target group.


In 1999 more than 2,000 representatives from AmeriCorps, the voluntary service corps created by President Clinton in his first term, served throughout Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. This represents a financial commitment of nearly $4.5 million in resources from the Corporation for National Service. Over the past five years, more than 1500 residents of the Delta region have completed their service with AmeriCorps and qualified for education awards totaling more than $9 million.

AmeriCorps members in the Delta serve with more than 15 programs including the American Red Cross, Delta Service Corps, and Teach for America, and other local programs. AmeriCorps members serving in the Delta tutor and mentor children, assist with disaster relief efforts, organize economic development projects, work to increase parental involvement in the schools, and engage in many other constructive activities to help strengthen the region. Examples of their accomplishments include:

  • The Delta Service Corps: AmeriCorps members in the Delta Service Corps, serving across three States, tutored nearly 3,000 students (K-12) in basic academic skills during and after the school day. More than 75% of the students showed a marked increase in academic performance as a result of the tutoring. These AmeriCorps members also recruited, trained, and supervised more than 9,000 community volunteers to assist with this regional literacy effort.

  • America Reads in Mississippi: One hundred AmeriCorps members with the America Reads Mississippi program tutored 1,700 children in low-achieving schools in nine Delta counties, and recruited 726 community volunteers to help them. Students gained an average of nine months in grade level in just four months of tutoring. After completing the program, the majority of the AmeriCorps members have gone on to become certified teachers, helping to decrease the critical teacher shortage in the Delta.

  • Tutoring in Louisiana: Twenty AmeriCorps members serving with Volunteers of America program in Alexandria, Louisiana, tutor and mentor 100 foster and adoptive children in grades K-12 in eight parishes. More than 70% of these students have shown improved academic performance, and attendance rates are at an all time high. In 1999, none of the students were suspended from school, or had contact with the juvenile court system.

  • Preschool Program in Arkansas: AmeriCorps members with the Arkansas Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program teach educationally disadvantaged parents of three to five year-olds how to become the children’s primary educators, lead parenting group meetings and develop preschool youth to age-appropriate developmental levels. This year they have seen attendance levels soar 70%, quite an accomplishment for the small rural Delta communities in which they serve.

  • Work with Enterprise Communities: AmeriCorps members help local economic development organizations like the NE Louisiana Delta Community Development Corporation and the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, and the Forrest City (Arkansas) Workforce Alliance, strengthen communities and create jobs throughout the Delta region.

Volunteerism: The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) supports an expanded effort to encourage both individual and Federal agency volunteerism in the Delta. There are more than 43,000 Federal employees in the region. Employees could establish “Each One Reach One” programs that would match a Federal employee to a child within the region as a mentor or tutor. Likewise the 36 Federal agencies operating in the region could be encouraged to establish Adopt-a-School programs, as well as partnerships with the local governments and chambers of commerce.

There is no cost associated with this program, except for the time of the individuals who volunteer. Developing nurturing relationships between the children of the Delta and Federal employees not only provides value for the child, but also provides Federal employees with opportunities for regional and local ambassadorship for the Federal government. Moreover, Federal agencies can benefit from volunteer activities that improve the job-related skills of students. Local award programs should be established to recognize and encourage volunteerism by Federal employees.


The Delta is a land often beset by natural disasters, from the flooding of the Mississippi River, to hurricanes from the Gulf of Mexico, to tornadoes and other calamities. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in cooperation with other Federal, State and local organizations, has pursued rapid responses to help Delta victims when disaster strikes.

FEMA mitigation activities in the Mississippi Delta region: During the 1990s, FEMA has contributed almost $300 million toward flood mitigation projects in the seven States comprising the Mississippi Delta under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). This includes approximately $260 million for the acquisition, elevation, or relocation of private residential structures. Other projects include stormwater management culverts, diversions, detention/retention basins and flood control berms, levees, or dikes.

Beginning in 1996, other flood mitigation projects have been funded under the newly formed Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) Program. Under the FMA Program, FEMA has allocated approximately $10.5 million to the seven States of the Mississippi Delta region. This funding was used for acquisition, elevation and relocation of structures that have been repeatedly flooded.

In addition, 10 cities within the Mississippi Delta region have received a total of $4 million in seed money under the Project Impact: Building a Disaster Resistant Community initiative. As part of this initiative, FEMA also offers technical assistance to help communities assess their risk and develop plans to prevent disaster damage before disaster strikes. (Delta counties and cities gaining benefits from this program include Madison, Mississippi; Henderson County, Kentucky; Carbondale, Illinois; Cape Girardeau and Piedmont, Missouri; Piggott, Corning, Rector, Tuckerman and Clay County, Arkansas; Baton Rouge, Mandeville, and Ouachita Parish, Louisiana.)

Cape Girardeau: Making a Difference with Project Impact

Not far from the banks of the Mississippi River in southeastern Missouri sits the town of Cape Girardeau, once a frontier trading post and steamboat port that now, more than 200 years later, is a thriving regional hub of education and commerce.

As with most river towns, Cape Girardeau has enjoyed both the trials and the tribulations of life on a waterway. And as the city has grown over the years, so have problems with flooding.

“We had development in the 1940s and 1950s in the floodplain,” said Ken Eftink, development services coordinator for the city. “Over time, with more building in the floodplain, development upstream and storm runoff, we saw the floods increasing in depth, in the number of floods per year and in the amount of dollars the floods were costing us.”

During 17 of the past 20 years, the Mississippi River has exceeded flood stage, causing backwaters to flood the city. There are four area creeks that often overflow their banks and create localized flooding. In 1993 and 1995, area flooding was so severe that it triggered two presidential disaster declarations.

If that isn’t enough, Cape Girardeau sits just 40 miles north of the New Madrid fault, which represents the greatest earthquake risk east of the Rocky Mountains. Some experts predict that there is better than a 40 percent chance that a damaging earthquake (6.0 or greater on the Richter Scale) will hit the region within the next 15 years. A series of earthquakes from this fault in the early 1800s—reportedly felt as far away as Boston—is believed to have created the largest release of seismic energy in the United States.

Eager to preserve a better way of life for its citizens and businesses, Cape Girardeau hasn’t let the threat of natural disasters stand in the way. Rather, its residents, businesses and local leaders have been taking action that has been reducing or preventing the damage that disasters can cause.

The city became part of a nationwide disaster-prevention initiative called Project Impact: Building Disaster Resistant Communities. Through Project Impact, individuals, businesses and government partner to determine a community’s disaster risks and then take common-sense steps that will lessen the impact of disasters before they strike.

Launched in 1997 by James Lee Witt, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Project Impact has spread to hundreds of communities and more than 2,500 businesses throughout the United States and its territories. Cape Girardeau was the first Missouri community to launch its own initiative.

“When we first heard about Project Impact, we thought ‘what a fantastic idea,’” said Eftink. “We were already seeing success with our flood control project but we thought ‘why stop with just flooding when we have other risks too?’”

The city had already taken on two important flood-control projects—widening the Cape LeCroix creek channel, which included relocating some residential and commercial properties—and creating a stormwater detention shed. Twice in 1999, heavy rains produced flash flooding in the area. But instead of damaging nearby homes and businesses as had usually occurred, the water was successfully channeled through the city and out into the Mississippi River without impacting structures.

Cape Girardeau’s disaster-prevention efforts haven’t stopped there. City building codes for new construction have been made more stringent. After the devastating 1993 Midwest Floods, more than 100 homes along the Mississippi River were voluntarily removed or relocated—forever stopping repetitive flood damage there. At the city’s wastewater treatment plant, an emergency generator has been installed, and a road leading to the plant has been elevated so that the facility can still be accessed and safely operated during active flooding.

Water intake pumps for Cape’s main water supply have been elevated above the city’s record flood level of 48 feet and an emergency generator has been added to provide a backup power source. By early 2000, the city’s water tanks were equipped with seismic sensors so that in an earthquake, shut-off valves will prevent the tanks from draining out, thereby protecting the city’s firefighting and potable water capabilities.

To address the city’s severe-weather risk, a building trades class from the local vocational school is adding a tornado safe room in each unit of a duplex the class is currently building. The rooms are actually walk-in closets that will be reinforced to withstand a tornado. The duplex will be finished by May 2000.

All of these efforts are paying off, Eftink says, and the long-term result will be a city that can better weather the inevitable next disaster.

To find out more about Project Impact, go to FEMA recommends that Project Impact be continued and expanded in the years beyond 2000.

FEMA disaster assistance: The Federal Emergency Management Agency has spent more than $600 million in disaster assistance in the Delta during the 1990s. The region has been affected by 48 disaster declarations and several emergency declarations.

Arkansas: FEMA spent more than $53 million on six disaster declarations and one emergency declaration that affected all or parts of the Delta area of the State during the 1990s. Severe storms, flooding, and tornadoes caused the devastation.

Mississippi: FEMA spent approximately $97 million for 10 disaster declarations and one emergency declaration that affected all or parts of the Delta of Mississippi during the 1990s. Flooding, hail, ice, tornadoes, and hurricanes caused the devastation.

Louisiana: FEMA spent more than $280 million for eight disaster declarations that affected all or parts of the Louisiana Delta. Primarily flooding, tropical storms, hurricanes and tornadoes caused the devastation.

Tennessee: FEMA spent more than $50 million for nine disaster declarations that affected all or parts of the Tennessee Delta. Primarily severe storms, flooding, and tornadoes caused the devastation.

Illinois: FEMA spent more than $45 million for six disaster declarations in the southern Illinois Delta. The devastation was caused primarily by tornadoes and flooding.

Kentucky: FEMA spent more than $20 million for three disaster declarations in the Kentucky Delta. The devastation was caused primarily by tornadoes and flooding.

Missouri: FEMA spent more than $48 million for six disaster declarations in the Missouri Delta. The devastation was caused primarily by storms, tornadoes and flooding.

Regional planning: FEMA also supports a variety of initiatives based on regional planning, and these are discussed below in the Regional Planning and Development section.

Helping Delta families and businesses recover in times of disaster: The Small Business Administration will continue to help families in the Mississippi Delta in times of disaster. SBA will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as well as other Federal and State and local agencies throughout the Delta to establish disaster assistance centers when a disaster strikes, provide expedited responses and streamline paperwork requirements.


The Department of Justice (DOJ) has been an active force in the Mississippi Delta region over the last seven years, especially through the vigorous enforcement of Federal civil rights and environmental statutes. The Department has pursued strategic partnerships with State and local law enforcement agencies, provided funding and technical assistance, and promoted innovative crime fighting and prevention strategies. The combination of these efforts has helped to drive crime rates down for seven consecutive years to the lowest levels in nearly three decades.

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS): When the COPS program was enacted in 1994, the Clinton/Gore Administration made a commitment to place 100,000 new community policing officers on the streets of our nation. This program has met its goal ahead of schedule and under budget. Local law enforcement officials credit the additional officers and the community based approach to fighting crime as a major contributing factor for driving down crime rates. Not only has this program been a success nationwide, but also it has substantially benefited communities in the Mississippi Delta region by providing an influx of Federal crime-fighting resources that have helped stimulate local economies by employing additional police officers, while stimulating local community leaders to become more engaged in the fight against crime.

In Dyersburg, Tennessee—a town of 21,000—the police department has received $750,000 in grants from the COPS office to add 12 officers to its 50-member force. By engaging in “community policing”, these officers have formed partnerships with residents and business owners to address crime and safety issues affecting their neighborhoods. They employ bike and citizen patrols and have a full-time officer assigned to work in local schools. To date, the COPS program has awarded more than $300 million in grants to law enforcement agencies in the Mississippi Delta.

Community-based law enforcement—The Executive Office of Weed and Seed: Operation Weed and Seed is a U.S. Department of Justice community based initiative that is having a desired effect in reducing crime and advancing opportunities for many Mississippi delta communities. Operation Weed and Seed is an innovative and comprehensive approach to law enforcement, crime prevention and community revitalization. It is a strategy—rather than a grant program—that aims to prevent, control and reduce violent crime, drug abuse, and gang activity in targeted high crime neighborhoods. The strategy involves a two-pronged approach: law enforcement agencies and prosecutors cooperate in “weeding out” criminals and “seeding” brings human services to the area, encompassing prevention, intervention, treatment and neighborhood revitalization.

A community oriented policing component bridges weeding and seeding strategies wherein officers obtain helpful information from area residents for weeding while they aid residents in obtaining information about community revitalization and seeding services. Currently, there are Weed and Seed sites in the following Delta communities: Cape Girardeau, Sikeston, Caruthersville, and Charleston, Missouri; Dyersburg and Memphis, Tennessee; Greenville, Mississippi; and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Community Law Enforcement Recommendations

In order to build on the tremendous successes of the last seven years and continue to make the Mississippi Delta region safer and to improve the quality of life for its citizens, DOJ will continue to do what has been proven effective. DOJ will continue to vigorously prosecute Federal violations in the Mississippi Delta region to help protect citizens from dangerous and violent criminals; deter crimes of hate by vigorously prosecuting violations of the Federal hate crimes statute; and promote civil rights by ensuring equal access and fair treatment with respect to employment, education, fair housing, and voting rights. In addition, DOJ will work to protect natural resources in the region by prosecuting Federal environmental violations and by working with State and local governments to strengthen existing environmental task forces. Finally, DOJ will work extensively with State and local law enforcement to develop strategic partnerships and to promote innovative crime prevention strategies in areas such as gun crimes, violence against women, school safety, and drug abuse.