The Delta Regional Authority may be getting a boost in funding once Congress passes a 1.1 trillion dollar “omnibus” federal spending bill. The DRA may get a 13 million dollar increase for an annual budget of 28 million dollars. 10 million additional annual dollars will go towards energy and water development initiatives. 3 million additional dollars would be appropriated through the US Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program.
Chris Masingill, the federal Co-Chairman of the DRA, says the increase in funding would represent the largest budget the agency has had since its founding at the beginning of the millennium.
“This is a significant appropriation for the DRA. We've been working for many years to build the foundation and groundwork for that,” says Masingill. “We're very appreciative of the congressional support. We're very appreciative of the Senators and members of Congress in our footprint that have been very supportive of DRA's efforts.”
The DRA serves a 252 county/parish region across 8 states in the Mississippi Delta. 42 of the 252 counties are in Arkansas.
The current increase in funding would represent the closest the agency's budget has come to its federal annual authorization cap of 30 million dollars, Masingill says.
Lee Powell is the director of the Delta Grassroots Caucus, a lobbying group that advocates for the DRA's economic development initiatives in the impoverished region. He says the funding increase will help further those initiatives.
“We still absolutely have problems in the Delta. We're working to promote everything we can: job creation, nutrition, rural development, major infrastructure programs. And we want to do everything that's positive and one positive step is to increase the DRA budget,” says Powell.
Powell says in the early 2000's, the Delta Regional Authority budget was cut to a low of 4 million dollars.
The US House of Representatives is expected to vote on the 2016 federal budget bill Friday morning. The DRA is one of several federal-state regional partnerships in the country. Others include the multi-state Appalachian Regional Commission and the Denali Regional Commission in Alaska.