Pryor Pledges Support for Expanding Opportunities in Delta;Participates in Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus Event
WASHINGTON D.C. - Senator Mark Pryor today told members of the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus he will continue to fight for federal funding that will make a positive impact on the quality of life in the Delta.
Pryor said the Delta remains a region of untapped potential and that he is working on several initiatives to spur economic development in the area. Pryor noted that the Senate this week passed a $295 billion highway bill that will allow for significant progress on Arkansas highways such as I-69. The infrastructure improvements would in turn help attract new business and expand current businesses in the Delta. He also expressed support for the Administration's recommendation of $6 million for the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), but pledged to fight budget cuts in agriculture and education that will adversely affect the Delta.
Pryor also touted the Rural Renaissance Act, legislation he is sponsoring with Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN). The bill provides a one time infusion of $50 billion in tax-exempt bonds to finance rural development projects, such as water and wastewater systems, broadband expansion, construction and economic development.
"I truly believe that if we combine the ingenuity and values of the Delta community with adequate resources, the quiet potential that lies in the region could be realized," Pryor said. "We already have the community. It's now critical for the federal government to consider the Delta's future, and to make vast improvements in the region's highways, education and infrastructure."
Despite advances in telemedicine, which allows doctors and specialists to "see" patients in rural communities without either party leaving their hometown, Pryor said health care is a major obstacle facing families in the Delta. The Senator said he is working to improve the retention rates of health care providers in rural areas by increasing federal Medicare payments to low-volume hospitals and adjusting Medicare's labor wage index for rural hospitals to reflect higher labor costs.
The Senator said he also remains a strong proponent of the Healthcare Equality and Accountability Act to improve access to health care services and the quality of care for minorities. The bill allows states to expand eligibility rules for enrollment in the Medicaid and SCHIP programs, increases funding for community outreach programs, and promotes accountability to end discrimination by health care providers.
"We have the best health care in the world, but families in the Delta region are often denied access," Pryor said. "I'm using every avenue available to me as Senator to support and expand health care opportunities in rural Arkansas, and I will continue to do so until all families - whether they live in Little Rock or Dumas - have access to quality and affordable health care."