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@MyKitchenTable - August 3, 2020

@MyKitchenTable: Monday, August 3, 2020

Dear Friend:

Helen Keller said, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

ImageToday’s constituent photo of the day is from Edwardsburg, where a constituent captured this extraordinary photo two weeks ago just two miles west of Edwardsburg at 4:30 in the morning when Comet Neowise flew by. TY for sharing. We would love for folks to submit photos of their favorite masks, too, that we can share in the KT. Wear a mask and stop the spread. You can share a photo of your favorite mask HERE.

I returned from D.C. on Friday after voting all week. As we know, the Senate did not reach an agreement last week to move forward on a COVID-19 relief package and adjourned for the weekend. They returned today as some negotiations continued between the White House and Congressional leaders through the weekend and again today. One of the major sticking points was the expiration of the $600 Unemployment Insurance (UI) bonus that had been in place since the president signed the CARES Act in April. A good number of employers (particularly small businesses) had made the point that they were having difficulty getting their activity back to meeting demand as some employees were earning more with the UI and the bonus than if they stayed employed. The restaurant industry was particularly impacted, but I heard from some auto suppliers, too, that they could not ramp up production above 75-80% without everyone coming back to work. A couple proposals were offered to extend the $600 bonus for a limited time allowing for the negotiations to continue and hopefully reach an agreement, but the votes to proceed in the Senate (they need 60) were not there. This issue will have to come to some agreement for anything to move forward.

I spoke to a number of our local school superintendents today as they are trying their best to figure out how to safely start the school year. Without a state budget enacted yet, there are major uncertainties and new costs associated with any process for learning. A key ingredient, of course, is access to broadband. How in the world are these families going to have their kids be able to access e-learning if their neighborhoods do not have the infrastructure to participate? The Democratic Whip, Jim Clyburn (D-SC) talked briefly about our proposal (I am the Republican lead) that would allow the FCC to auction some of the spectrum and then use those proceeds to deploy broadband in underserved areas. For Michigan, it would mean some $108M/year for the next ten years. We continue to hope that this will be part of the next COVID relief package, as well.

The Mitch McConnell COVID-19 relief package unveiled last week included $105B for education funding — $70B for Elementary and Secondary schools and $29B for Higher Education. His package did not include the SMART Act (a bipartisan proposal for States/counties/cities based on population, COVID case load, and loss of tax revenues) or liability relief for entities. I expect both of these initiatives to be included in any proposal that reaches the president as there is bipartisan support for both. I also believe there will be a direct individual stimulus check for folks as there was in the CARES package, as this pandemic has lasted far beyond the hope that it would be over by Easter. My mood is “hopeful” with direction that can go to “encouraged” then “optimistic” vs “doubtful” or “panicked.” Will keep you posted, for sure.

Good news continues on the production of a vaccine. Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline will receive $2.1B from the U.S. to further develop their coronavirus vaccine and provide Americans with 100M doses... the largest award yet from Operation Warp Speed (OWS), which hopes to see 300M doses available as early as January. You can see more in Politico on the Vaccine Race HERE. There was also a good story on WKZO regarding joint trials of medicines for COVID-19, which you can see HERE.

Also on Friday, the NIH announced the investment of nearly $250M in new technologies to address challenges associated with COVID-19 testing. NIH’s Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) initiative has awarded contracts to seven biomedical diagnostic companies to support a range of new lab-based and point-of-care tests that will significantly increase the number, type, and availability of tests by millions per week as early as September. With national demand estimated to be millions more tests per day above current levels, these technologies are expected to make a significant contribution to expanding the nation’s testing capacity. You can see that press release HERE.

USA Today ran a great page one story, “FDA opens door to at-home tests,” last Friday, which you can read HERE. This is right along the lines of what I have been doing with a Michigan entity, including calls last week, that would allow accurate, inexpensive, home-testing so folks would know within minutes if they have been exposed to COVID. The individuals would be able to print or show on their smart phones to others - whether it be their office, assembly line, school, sporting event, grocery store, etc. - as to whether they have been exposed. This will help lower the risk of spreading COVID-19. That with a vaccine will be huge to move us forward on a path for our lives to hopefully recover from this nightmare that has impacted every one of us. In speaking with Pfizer folks this afternoon, they “expect to start very soon” on production right here in Kalamazoo. Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo and the rest of the world will know if they don’t already!

ImageOn a final note, the country saw in tributes the story of my friend John Lewis as we laid his body to rest.   He was about as genuine as one could find and certainly made a major difference in the struggle for civil rights all his life. He wrote a last column to be published after his death and I included it HERE.  Knowing John the last 34 years, I know he indeed wrote it himself and can hear his very words spring word by word from the pages. We all must strive to do better. You can hear John and me speaking on the issue of civility, racism, and bipartisanship at an event moderated by Charlie Cook at a Westminster Presbyterian Church a few years ago HERE.

All the best,

Fred Upton

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