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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 10, 2000

President Clinton and Vice President Gore are committed to bringing economic prosperity to the Mississippi Delta region and other areas of the country which have not benefited from the nation's soaring economy. In the Delta region, poverty remains at 175 percent of the national average and over half of the counties have had poverty rates over 20 percent for the past four decades. The per capita income in the Delta's distressed communities is only 53 percent of the U.S. average. To address these problems, the President's 2001 budget proposes $159 million to increase specifically economic opportunities in the Mississippi Delta region, including $30 million to create a new Delta Regional Authority to bring the resources of a federal-state partnership to the fight for economic growth in the region. This partnership will help provide the infrastructure and job training needed to make prosperity a reality in the Delta.

Establishing a Delta Regional Authority

Targeting Distressed Areas: The Delta Regional Authority's funding will be targeted to the counties with the highest poverty and unemployment rates, and lowest per capita income. The DRA will include: -- $25 million for area development such as distressed counties programs, physical infrastructure and job training; -- $3 million for assistance to participating state and local economic development entities; and -- $2 million for technical assistance and administrative expenses.

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

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

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

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

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

Supporting Rural Business: The Department of Agriculture will provide $6 million in funding to support rural businesses, including: -- $4 million for the Intermediary Relending Program, which finances loans to intermediary borrowers who in turn re-lend the funds to rural businesses, community development corporations, and others for the purpose of improving rural economic opportunity--the $4 million represents loan subsidy costs and would support a loan level of $8 million; and -- $2 million for Partnership Technical Assistance grants, to help underserved communities create strategic plans, better use USDA's Rural Development grant and loan programs, create jobs, improve the quality of life, and build strong, sustained economic growth. These grants will be run through the Rural Business Opportunity Grant Program.

Investing $22 Million in the People of the Delta Region

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

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

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