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@MyKitchenTable - May 18, 2020

Dear Friend:

Aristotle: “Hope is a waking dream.” 

We can hardly all wait for this nightmare to be over and our lives restored. 

ImageThe first constituent photo today is from a woman in St. Joe who spent her time during the pandemic turning an old radio into a planter with a rod iron sewing machine pedestal. Our next photo is of constituents from Dowagiac visiting their mother at an assisted living facility in Kalamazoo on Mother’s Day. Thank you for sharing your photos. If you’d like a photo of yours to be featured in my Kitchen Table report, you can submit them HERE.

Some good news today on a number of fronts. 

  • "Michigan reports lowest daily Coronavirus deaths seen since late March” headline greeted me this morning and you can read those details HERE.  But, the CDC did forecast an increase in deaths in the coming weeks with the bold (NOT) prediction that we would exceed 100K deaths by June 1.  You can find some of that state forecasts HERE...I would presume that Michigan’s good news is one of the reasons behind our Governor’s E.O. allowing for the reopening, in two regions, of retail businesses and restaurants and bars with limited seating in the northern part of Michigan taking effect May 22, which you can see HERE.
  • ImageKnowing that testing, therapeutics (treatment), and a vaccine are the big goals to accomplish, real progress is being made on the science side.  Dr. Tom Inglesby said on Meet the Press, “Coming into this year, I would have said it was completely unrealistic...Given that there are now 110 vaccine projects going on around the world that all the major vaccine companies in the world are working on....I think it is possible...”  And former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also expressed optimism about the development of a vaccine on Face the Nation.
  • President Trump announced the framework and leadership for Operation Warp Speed, the Administration’s national program to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.  We helped announce the good news from Pfizer regarding their Kalamazoo operation and the Detroit Free Press wrote this story Sunday that you can read HERE. Today, CNN reported the news regarding Moderna and its trial showing real promise as well, which you can read/view HERE.  
  • The FDA authorized the first standalone at-home sample collection kit that can then be sent to specific labs for testing. The FDA has also authorized two COVID-19 diagnostic tests for use with samples collected using this home collection kit, which you can see HERE.
  • The NIH began a clinical trial to evaluate whether hydroxychloroquine, given together with the antibiotic azithromycin, can prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19.  Nearly 2,000 adults will participate in the U.S., which you can see HERE.
  • Our Governor reached out to me this morning asking if I could help with testing supplies that did not arrive for Michigan over the weekend from FEMA.  I was glad to make the call and found that the swabs were arriving and that the balance would arrive tomorrow morning.  FEMA has procured and delivered more than 4M swabs so far in May.

I have been working with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus (PSC) the last several weeks on a proposal to help our states and local communities with additional expenses tied to COVID-19 and the dramatic loss of revenues (expected to be about $3B for Michigan).  Our discussions have included governors, local officials and members of the House and Senate.  Today, we formally unveiled a product that can garner the support to be enacted in a world of divided government and provide the needed relief to our communities in this time of need.  2/3 of the funding would go to states, and 1/3 would go to counties and local units of government. The formula is not a political one but rather based on population, COVID-19 caseload, and lost revenue. It does not allow for States to penalize communities for funding they might receive (no allowance for ‘claw-back”) with specific language disallowing pension bailouts and no pre-COVID-19 expenses.  We are now working as PSC members to see if we have the support necessary to move forward with our proposal to our respective legislative leaders and you can see my press release HERE and national press release HERE.  Though many of our communities did support the passage last week of the House HEROES Act, it was never viewed as a bipartisan bill that could ever pass the Senate or reach the White House, as there was also a veto message issued by the President, which you can read HERE.  If we can garner a strong majority of our PSC, expect to see this language as part of the Senate proposal likely to begin consideration after Memorial Day.  

Today I received a number of calls from small business interests regarding PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) flexibility issues.  I am an original cosponsor of common sense changes that would extend loan forgiveness beyond the original 8 week timeline and expand the rehiring deadline to offset the effect of increased unemployment benefits, as Michigan and a number of states have not yet lifted their restrictions, making it impossible to have everyone back at work (remember there were plenty of folks wishing this nightmare would be over by Easter!).  I have been asked to be one of the prime Republicans to help move this issue with the PSC. If successful, we have a decent chance of getting this legislation included in the next relief bill.  I will keep you and our communities updated.

God Bless,

Fred Upton

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