@MyKitchenTable: Friday, December 18, 2020
There’s an old saying, “If not us, who?; if not now, when?” No, it was not the Ghost Busters but certainly relevant now as we try and close the books on the 116th Congress. I was re-elected a Vice-Chair of the bipartisan Problem Solver’s Caucus (PSC) by my fellow GOP’s earlier in the week for the 117th Congress.
We had roughly 50 Members of Congress equally divided between GOP’s and Dem in the 116th with our group likely expanding to nearly 60 in the 117th. Elissa Slotkin and Debbie Dingell from Michigan’s Democrat side and myself and – likely - freshman GOP Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) will serve in the PSC.
You should know that our PSC initiated the framework dating back to last summer trying to show the leadership on both sides of the Capitol and on both sides of the aisle that there is support for a COVID package as this pandemic did not end as we would have all wished last Easter and will continue into 2021. Elissa Slotkin and I discussed the COVID package on NPR’s Michigan Radio Stateside and PSC’s role. You can listen to that interview HERE. There are endless disturbing stories across the country impacting families and businesses as we try to survive into the new year. As the “goalposts” continue to move, our PSC has met the challenge and we are so close to getting this COVID package across the goal line and signed by the president.
The $900B elements of this package are these as of the end of the week:
- $300B for the Paycheck Protection (PPP) for Small Businesses with provisions to count earlier PPP loans/grants as tax deductible vs taxable and loan forgiveness of PPP loans <$150K and includes live venue operators (movie theaters, museums, entertainers affected by stay-at-home orders). Funding allowed for a second forgivable PPP loan again administered by local lenders.
- $180B for Unemployment Assistance which would extend all pandemic unemployment insurance for 16 weeks and provide $300 supplemental insurance during that period.
- $16B for vaccine development and distribution and testing and contract tracing for states and localities.
- $35B to support health Care Providers (would likely include pre-payments of Medicare dollars for hospitals as before).
- $5B for addiction and mental health.
- $45B for transportation funding for aviation workers’ wages, salaries, and benefits...would also likely include funds for transit and bus lines.
- $10B for Child Care Stabilization grants—would help with PPE and employee costs.
- $13B for Agricultural Assistance and Fisheries.
- $10B for Postal Service loan forgiveness.
- $13B for Nutrition—increases SNAP by 15% for 4 months and food banks.
- $25B for Rental Assistance to states and local governments and extends the CDC eviction moratorium until 1/31/21.
- $4B for student loans for loan forbearance until 4/1/21 (extended from 1/31/21).
- $10B for Broadband.
- $82B for Education funding (K-12; $54B), Higher Ed ($20B).
Much of the balance will be used for individual checks probably in the range of $600/person probably with lower income caps (was $75K last spring). Money for states/local communities was formally dropped from the package as no agreement could be reached providing gross liability protections for small businesses during the emergency period and discussions will be postponed on both into the next congress.
So what’s the holdup? Colleagues know this is the “last train” leaving the station heading for a presidential signature and trying to change provisions. In the meantime, the temporary funding resolution (Continuing Resolution or ‘CR”) expires Friday night and without a temporary extension, the federal government will shut down except for essential services. Late Friday night a 2-day CR passed the House allowing the COVID discussions to continue through the weekend without a government shutdown. It now goes to the Senate.
It was such great news last week to see the great folks at Pfizer begin to see the delivery of vaccines across the country last Sunday. Some 1,911 successful deliveries were sent from the Portage facility with only 4 having difficulties (parcels actually got colder than the -94 degree required). The Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is expected very shortly for the Moderna vaccine and those shipments can begin this weekend to supplement Pfizer’s delivery. Astra-Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson are likely to also receive an EUA in early January. NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins has indicated that it is really phenomenal that we have a vaccine being delivered so quickly meeting all the safeguards needed for approval. You may have heard that Pfizer is still holding substantial doses (millions?) but that is because there has to be a second dose administered to reach the 95% efficacy rate after 21 days from receiving the first dose. I do believe that the vaccine is safe, but I will wait my turn before I roll up my sleeve allowing health care personnel and others to be rightly so at the front of the line. I know a number of them that had the vaccine earlier this week. In the meantime, I will continue to double-mask and social distance. I also continue to be tested. You can click HERE to learn more about the difference between Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccine.
The restaurant industry is asking for the public’s support – as reported HERE by Pat Moody – as they go through a challenging time, that’s for certain. I hope you get a chance to support your local small business over these next few months.
We learned this week that the inaugural committee will be limiting attendance at the presidential inauguration in January and most of the events will be virtual. Every inauguration – Republican or Democrat – our office is so proud to host constituents of the Sixth Congressional District. Normally we’d have a number of tickets to share with constituents, but sadly, it is limited this year because of COVID-19. You can learn more HERE.
Today, the Governor announced that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has updated its epidemic order to allow indoor activities where Michiganders can remain masked, including in-person learning at high schools and indoor entertainment venues. Casinos, bowling centers, and movie theatres will be allowed to reopen with total capacity capped at 100; food and drink concessions closed; and social distancing requirements in place. The new order is effective Monday, Dec. 21 and you can learn more HERE.
We have learned more in the news about the terrible Russian cyber attack on U.S. government agencies. As the top GOP on the Energy Subcommittee, I’ve asked for briefings - classified and non - for the Administration to look at the damage and corrective steps we need to address. Stay tuned.
I close with a real highlight. National Journal has been a staple of my weekly reading for decades providing unbiased reporting on many complex issues. Their most recent issue was titled “Diversity in Advocacy—highlighting Black leaders in government affairs.” Tiffany Moore was one of those highlighted who today serves as Senior VP for the Consumer Technology Association. You can see that story HERE. Tiffany once served for a number of years as my Legislative Director after graduating from WMU.
All the best,