March 18, 2021
@MyKitchenTable: Thursday, March 18, 2021
“There are four steps to accomplishment: Plan purposefully. Prepare prayerfully. Proceed positively. Pursue persistently.”
These four steps are certainly important to abide by as we look to put this pandemic in the rearview mirror.
Today's picture is of me and my friend Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina. Stay tuned at the end of my report for an explanation.
While we’ve seen encouraging progress on the rollout of the vaccine, we’re not out of the woods yet. In Michigan, the daily average of new cases has doubled over the past few weeks to roughly over 3,000 reported today. Michigan now has the fourth highest rate of new cases in the nation. Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun is concerned about the spread of more transmissible variants as we continue to vaccinate millions of folks across the state, which you can read HERE. Europe is also witnessing concerning surges in new COVID cases that serve as a cautionary tale for us, which you can read HERE. So, bottom line – make sure to keep wearing your mask and washing your hands. You can read more HERE. Michigan’s COVID dashboard is HERE.
I’m glad to see former president Trump encourage ALL Americans to get the vaccine. Thanks to the success of Operation Warp Speed funded by the Trump Administration and initiated through the enactment of 21st Century Cures, every vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson – is safe and effective. I, too, urge everyone in Southwest Michigan to get their dose(s) when you can. Read more HERE.
I continue to remain in close contact with federal, state, and local officials and our communities at large to expedite COVID vaccination efforts across Southwest Michigan. Health officials are recommending that folks shop around when searching for a vaccine appointment as they have seen record numbers of vaccination requests in recent days. For folks in Kalamazoo County, you can read more about scheduling an appointment HERE and for folks in Berrien County, you can read a vaccination update HERE. I would also note that my staff and I have put together a resource guide that includes helpful information about vaccine appointments in every Southwest Michigan county, which you can see HERE. In addition, I was very encouraged to read that the United States is projected to administer its 100 millionth vaccine dose tomorrow, which you can read about HERE.
Yesterday, I joined Rep. Maria Salazar (R-FL), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and other Republican colleagues at the Capitol to offer new solutions to reform our broken immigration system and address the crisis at our southern border. We’re now convening a coalition to secure our border, reform our asylum system, protect DACA, and introduce practical solutions for undocumented and guest workers. America has long been the land of opportunity for millions of immigrants who greatly enrich our communities, but for far too long, the Administration and Congress have failed to offer a real solution. Our proposal helps take us in the right direction. You can read more about our effort HERE.
This week, Congress has considered a number of bills, including the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which I cosponsored and supported. This crucial legislation will help address the real shortage of farm workers in the American ag sector by building a reliable and legal workforce. Over the years, I’ve spoken to local farmers across Southwest Michigan – who quite literally feed the world – and labor shortages are one of the most significant challenges they face year after year. That’s why we need real, bipartisan ag labor reform that is fair and actually works for growers, producers, workers, and consumers. You’ll remember that I was an original cosponsor of this bill in the 116th Congress as well. Some 300 organizations support this legislation, which also passed the House last session.
We also voted on the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which I have long supported and voted for on Wednesday. VAWA plays a critical role in combating domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, and other terrible crimes. As a result, we have seen our nation’s response to these crimes improve.
As you may have seen, one element of the American Rescue Plan signed by the President last week is a provision that if your modified adjusted gross income is under $150,000, up to $10,200 of unemployment income from 2020 may be excluded from federal income tax. Since this has occurred during filing season it has raised a number of questions and the IRS is working to address them. If you are eligible and have not yet filed your 2020 taxes, the IRS recently released guidance on how to handle this exclusion. You can read about that HERE. If you HAVE already filed your 2020 taxes and this provision will apply to you, the IRS has indicated that it is still preparing guidance on how to properly correct your return. The IRS has requested that taxpayers please do not yet file amended returns related to American Rescue Plan provisions until pending guidance is released. You can see that HERE.
I heard from a number of our local CPA’s asking for a delay to the April 15th IRS federal tax filing deadline for the 2020 tax year as there remain major delays in the IRS processing centers with real uncertainties relating to unemployment insurance claims. I’m pleased to say that the IRS is postponing the April 15th date to May 17th, which the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the IRS announced yesterday. I asked Governor Whitmer this morning to consider the same and she indicated that they are looking at it. I’m hoping to see an announcement soon.
I’ve also heard from many folks back home who are anxiously waiting for their stimulus checks to arrive in their bank accounts and in the mail. Back in January, I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues in sending a letter to the IRS urging speedier delivery of stimulus checks so that folks could access these funds as soon as possible. You can read the letter HERE and you can track the status of your stimulus payment through the IRS’s “Get My Payment” tool HERE.
As the top Republican on the Energy Subcommittee, I noted with concern reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that the U.S. electrical grid is “becoming more vulnerable to cyberattacks, in part due to the introduction of and reliance on monitoring and control technologies.” You can read more HERE.
I also recently had the opportunity to meet a real hero and brave American. DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone was at the Capitol on January 6th and told me of his harrowing experience on that awful day and shared images from his body cam, which you can see HERE. The insurrectionists who breached the Capitol were violent and dangerous. He was tasered some seven times and was beaten unconscious with a “Blue Lives Matter” flagpole with one of the rioters saying “let’s shoot him with his own gun.” Recently, even former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller was in agreement with former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao that president Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric incited the mob to descend upon the Capitol. You can read more HERE. The FBI continues to use all available resources to identify rioters and hold them accountable, which you can see HERE.
On a closing note, I am honored to be named co-chair of the Faith & Politics Institute with my good friend and colleague Rep. James Clyburn. The late Congressman John Lewis served as Board Chair of the Institute and ever year he led a pilgrimage to Selma and Birmingham, where I was honored to join him. The Faith & Politics Institute reflects his love, legacy, and commitment to a truly just and equal society. You can read the full statement HERE.
All the best,