AmeriCorps, Delta Regional Authority will receive funding through Sept. 30, official says

Published 7:09 pm Friday, May 5, 2017

AmeriCorps and the Delta Regional Authority — two programs slated for extinction by President Donald Trump — will be funded through Sept. 30 under the 2017 Consolidated Appropriations Act passed Wednesday by Congress, officials with both organizations said Thursday.

“We’ve been operating on continuing resolutions for quite sometime, and we’ve got our budget and we got even a bump up from what the president (Obama) asked last year,” said Delta Regional Authority Chairman Chris Masingill. “So for (fiscal) 2017, we feel very good, and very appreciative and proud that Congress has recognized the work we do in economic and community development in one of the most underserved and under-resourced parts of the country.

“This is a positive indication of what will happen when Congress starts deliberating on the 2018 budget.”

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Bill Basl, who recently retired as AmeriCorps State and National director, said AmeriCorps’ budget is also more than the agency received in fiscal 2016. “Right now, we’re good through Sept. 30. After that, the budget will be worked on again,” he said.

“I think one of the challenges we have (to keep AmeriCorps) is to educate folks, and obviously, the budget Congress originally received from the White House didn’t include AmeriCorps, and it didn’t include a lot of programs.”

Part of the Corporation for National and Community Service Established in 1993, AmeriCorps is a national service program aimed at helping communities in different areas to improve.

Established by Congress in 2000, the Delta Regional Authority works to improve economic opportunity in the eight-state Mississippi Delta region by helping to create jobs, build communities, and improving the lives of its residents.

Masingill believes Trump may reconsider his plan to eliminate both agencies “as he becomes more aware and familiar and educated on the impacts, (and) the return on investments that these two programs and these two agencies have. We believe that members of Congress will uphold our mission.”

“We support the president’s focus on infrastructure and security and believe that Delta Regional Authority can actually be a vehicle to help accomplish his goals and visions for the country.”

Masingill and Basl were in Vicksburg Thursday for the inaugural Delta Corps Summit, a partnership program involving AmeriCorps and the Delta Regional Authority.

“It’s based off the Delta Service Corps which was created in the 1990s through a partnership with Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas,” Masingill said. “The Delta Service Corps was the precursor to the AmeriCorps National Service program.

“One of the goals I wanted to see happen during my tenure with the DRA was to resurrect that program in a way where we had an eight-state partnership to elevate national service and to create a dedicated program in the Delta to really capitalize and leverage the power of National Service.”

Basl said the partnership is the result of discussions between AmeriCorps and the DRA involving the organization’s willingness to host AmeriCorps in all eight states of the Mississippi Delta.

“With AmeriCorps, we have to have an organization (locally) to be financially responsible and do the training and supervision, and have oversight,” he said. “A lot of the small towns that need AmeriCorps members don’t have that strong non-profit infrastructure, so the DRA, I thought, would be an intermediary and assume all of the training and oversight and financial responsibility.

“That is a major contribution, so it allows AmeriCorps to serve in needy areas where they do not have the strength in terms of organizations responsible (for oversight).”

Under the partnership, Masingill said, the Delta Regional Authority works with many of the AmeriCorps programs, “Because at the end of the day, we know and fully recognize, the power of national service.”

“These are young people giving a year, sometimes two years, back to their community and their people, to try to help work in areas such as education, economic opportunities, disaster recovery and response, health, (and) working with our veterans.”

The leadership summit, he said, is the first time the agencies affiliated with the Delta Regional Authority have come together to learn about the Delta Regional Authority, about AmeriCorps, about the unique partnership program with the two agencies.

During the summit, members of the Delta Regional Authority agencies that will host the AmeriCorps workers will also receive management and leadership training to prepare them for the program.

“These are Americans serving Americans in some incredible places in the Delta region, helping to address some of the biggest challenges that we have in the nation. These young people are truly the faces of what it means to give back to their community,” he said. He said the goal of the program is to eventually have 300 people performing community service programs in Delta Regional Authority area.

“These are boots on the ground. These are people serving in these communities, living in these communities for a year for all types of programs that directly impact the community.”

“It (the program) will be a great model,” Basl said. “These are our next generation of leaders … they can help the public good. They can help more than just one person in a community, and motivate others. It’s local and the priorities are set at the local level.”


About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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