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National

Trump's Budget And The Mississippi Delta's Economy

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Delta Regional Authority is a federal agency that tries to bring economic development and infrastructure to the Mississippi Delta region which includes parts of eight states. That agency would be eliminated in President Trump's proposed budget. We're joined now by Chris Masingill. He's co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority. Mr. Masingill, thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

CHRIS MASINGILL: You're most welcome. I'm proud to be with you.

SIMON: Well, help us understand the work that you do there.

MASINGILL: Our main focus is to try to help support job creation, build communities and improve lives in those eight states, 252 counties and parishes that make up one of the most iconic and historic places in the country that we call the Mississippi Delta and Black Belt region of Alabama.

SIMON: What's the budget for the Delta Regional Authority? What do you get every year from the federal government?

MASINGILL: We average about 32 million with project resources, program resources and direct infrastructure resources.

SIMON: Thirty-two million, that's what a mediocre shortstop gets on a five-year contract.

MASINGILL: (Laughter) That's true. That's a very good point. But, look. We've got a proven track record of being good stewards of the people's dollars. We take that little pot of money, Scott, and we have an enormous track record of turning those dollars into something pretty significant.

We've taken about 163 million from our direct appropriations from Congress, and we've partnered that in investments totaling over 3.3 billion in the course of the 14 years that we've been doing our work.

SIMON: Mr. Masingill, how would you react to the argument that some people might advance that you're doing good work but that there are other ways to do it? That local governments can get even more involved than they are now and should. And businesses can step up. And for that matter, foundations and corporations can step up.

MASINGILL: Well, I would say to that perspective is that we're doing that. DRA is on the ground working in these rural communities with local government because of the way we are structured. We are integrated with the local municipalities and local county governments in trying to help them complete their economic development goals, their community development goes. And without those resources, those communities have nowhere else to turn.

And at the end of the day, this is about improving lives. And this is about building communities in some of the most impoverished places in the entire country.

SIMON: Can you tell us one of your success stories?

MASINGILL: Oh, absolutely. Where do I start? The projects run the gamut from being able to come in to a small rural community of about 400 people. And they have had significant infrastructure issues and water issues. And they were trying to do some emergency repairs. And two days before Christmas, we were able to have resources on the ground so they could have running water on Christmas Day.

Or when you talk about the 7,200 workers that we've helped train, these are real people. These are people that live in our part of the world that are trying to do the best they can and to try to provide for their family and have hope for a future.

SIMON: That's Chris Masingill, who's co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority. Thanks so much for being with us.

MASINGILL: Thank you, sir. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.