In December of 2005, Florida Family Network played the lead community role in a gathering of dedicated Community-Based Organizations, researchers, and individuals at Tuskegee University to discuss ways in which the quality of life for the residents of the Black Belt region might be improved. From this group emerged the (BBAN) Black Belt Action Network, devoted to developing strategies and increasing awareness and mobilization efforts within the region. This event was a reengagement of a successful partnership that resulted in important legislation for the Black Belt being sponsored in the 108th Congress, or the last session of Congress. Congressman Artur Davis sponsored a bill (HR 678) the Southern Empowerment and Economic Development (SEED) Act of 2003 that would form a governmental authority known as DBBRA (Delta Black Belt Regional Authority) which included key elements for community based organizations including:

 

  • A CBO decision making role for a percentage of the allocated funds,

  • A specific definition of who would receive the funds or an assurance that a percentage of the funds would go to the most needy areas of the Black Belt, and

  • A limit to how much money could go to physical infrastructure, such as roads and bridges as opposed to education, healthcare etc.

 

In fact, The Constituency Representation Board (CRB), as written in Davis' bill has it spelled out that it will have at least 20% of the Authority's total appropriations for CBO/FBO/higher-education institution programs consistent with statutory funding priorities in significantly distressed counties and areas meeting a specified means-test. Also, the CRB proposed four regional subcommittees overseen by an Executive Committee (EC). The CRB would elect a Chair and Vice Chair of the EC from among the ranks of the CRB as a whole, and they will have voting powers within the overall Authority, as well as the power to provide input on funding decisions and allocation formulas. The CRB members would have been responsible for communicating community plans to their regional subcommittee. The CRB infrastructure is the template for ensuring those communities' critical needs such as housing, education and health care is part of the broader agenda. More than anything this ensures that the decision making is in the hands of local leaders best acquainted with the region's greatest challenges. At the same time, it makes a commitment of resources consistent with the vast needs of the region. This initiative did not make legislation in 2005; however, because of the grassroots momentum and the voice of BBAN in the targeted black belt states, Senator Davis re-introduced the bill in November 2008 and some of the components of this proposed legislation were folded into the current Farm bill legislation.

Poverty Reduction

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