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@MyKitchenTable - August 13, 2020

@MyKitchenTable: Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Dear Friend:

Teddy Roosevelt said, “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”  

ImageToday’s masked constituent is from Benton Harbor. They wore their mask to go to the grocery store. Great mask! TY so much for sharing. If you’d like to share a photo of your favorite mask, click HERE.  

It’s been a busy couple days for me as I am on the road a bit more in our district with a mask and proper social distancing. 

On Monday I participated in an MDOT virtual public forum regarding the final steps to connect US 31 with I-94 in Berrien county. Yes, that was me way back in the 70s filling in for Congressman Dave Stockman at the Michigan-Indiana state line helping to cut the ribbon on the very first segment with State Senator Harry Gast and State Rep. Lad Stacey. We passed out “Pray for Me, I drive U.S. 31” bumper stickers, and mine is framed and still hangs in my St. Joseph district office.  

Monday’s call answered questions from the press as to the timing and construction to really be done by 2022. This has been a long saga preserving endangered butterflies thanks to the good work by the Sarett Nature Center and earmarks that I helped bring from my days on the House Surface Transportation Committee partnering with Harry Gast, the Chair of the State Senate Appropriations Committee.  

Former State Rep Al Pscholka was a huge help when he was able to get this final leg onto the MDOT priority list and DOT Secretary Elaine Chao called me in 2018 saying she had found another $20M to finish the job. In the meantime, work has been done including relocating a major natural gas line that should be completed next month. The orange barrels will be a welcome site as we finally finish this important project!

I also spoke to two medical groups, the American Pathologists and a pharmaceutical company, and referenced telemedicine and the need for increased broadband deployment. Despite the breakdown of talks over the weekend with the Administration and congressional leaders, if there is a “deal” on Unemployment, aid to states/cities/counties (SMART ACT), education funds for K-12 and higher education, individual stimulus checks... there is a real possibility that elements of our bipartisan Clyburn-Upton proposal could deploy broadband this Fall and will be included. I talked with education officials again today on the need for such if schools really do move to a blend of in-classroom learning and e-learning from home. Large percentages of many of our school families simply do not have access to broadband, and they will only fall further behind without this needed infrastructure.  

Today I used zoom to speak to the Michigan Association of Broadcasters at their “virtual” annual convention. I brought them up to speed on the soon-to-be produced COVID vaccine in Kalamazoo and thanked them for their continued commitment to local broadcasting. Last night’s huge storm that crossed Lake Michigan and still has the power out for thousands of folks as I write this Monday afternoon was tracked and reported by all of our local stations informing us of the dangers of this very fast and destructive storm.

I am a board member of SW Michigan First, a regional multi-county economic driver and engine established with others across the state by Governor Snyder. We had a small, socially distanced lunch with Von Washington of the Kalamazoo Promise to discuss a number of education initiatives with other community leaders. Yes, broadband was an issue but also the need for all our schools to have the proper resources to ensure safety for students as well as personnel. There has been a dramatic uptick in younger children testing positive for COVID as schools begin to open around the country. The CDC released a report on the hospitalization rates and characteristics of children younger than 18 with confirmed COVID.  

Analysis of pediatric COVID-19 hospitalization data from 14 states found that, although the cumulative rate of COVID hospitalization among children (8 per 100K) is low compared with that in adults (164.5), and one in three hospitalized children was admitted to an intensive care unit, which you can see HERE. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association published a report that at least 97K kids in the U.S. tested positive in the last two weeks of July out of 338K total positive tests through July 30, meaning more than a quarter tested positive in those two weeks. This represents approximately 8.8% of all COVID cases, which you can read HERE.

Our Governor reached out to me last Friday asking if I could help Michigan get reimbursed for 100% of our National Guard expenses as CA, FL, TX, CT, and others receive. I reached out to fellow vice-chair colleague Debbie Dingell and the two of us initiated and circulated and sent a letter signed by 13 of our MI colleagues to the Administration requesting such fair treatment, which you can see HERE

ImageLastly, I toured the under-construction new YWCA Edison Children’s Center in Kalamazoo that will open next year which will be open 24/7 providing a new and innovative approach to early learning and childcare. Very impressive, and again will show Kalamazoo is on a very positive path as they tend to the most vulnerable needs.


All the best,

Fred Upton

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