I wrote Sunday regarding the sad news of a WMU student who passed away over the weekend and remarked then that we would all know someone who will most likely be infected with this cruel disease. And even though the stats will show that probably 98 percent of those infected will survive, the death toll will be likely in the tens of thousands by even the most conservative estimates.
For me, it hit home even harder yesterday when I learned that a long-time good friend and, frankly a hero in so many ways, passed away with this disease after being diagnosed only a couple days prior. Bud Baker was probably the most decorated veteran that ever hailed from Berrien County. A Medal of Honor nominee, he was wounded more than a dozen times in Vietnam. He was a steady voice with the “Lest We Forget” chapter of veterans in Berrien, served as a chaplain at Lakeland/Spectrum hospital, and was just about the nicest man one will ever meet who loved his country. What is also so sad is that because of the current restrictions, we can not personally give the final salute and hear the taps and the gun salute he so deserves. I tweeted about him yesterday and heard from colleagues across the country mourning his passing. His picture from a past Memorial Day parade has sat on my desk for years. He is likely the first individual that died in Berrien County from this awful virus. We will all miss him dearly.
Today I spent considerable time beginning to work on the next piece of legislation that will emerge from the Congress.
The President today encouraged the Congress to pass an infrastructure bill as the next piece of legislation to boost the economy amid the pandemic. He tweeted: “With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long awaited infrastructure Bill...It should be VERY BIG & BOLD. Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country.”
It is also likely that the SBA loan program - that will become grants for personnel costs - will be exhausted shortly and will likely be “restocked” in Phase-4 for our local lenders to continue to get the economy moving once the lockdowns are no longer necessary.
You may recognize the name “Dean Kamen." I have often said that he is the Thomas Edison of the 21st Century. It was his leadership that created FIRST, the High School Robotics competition that has captured the interest of some 3,500 US businesses and thousands of schools and students. Michigan has more teams than any other state and the regionals were held at SJHS earlier this month with the world competition slated for Cobo (now canceled) in April.
Among Kamen’s many inventions includes the personal kidney dialysis machine for home use which is now in FDA clinical trials that should conclude before year’s end with perhaps production in the thousands next year. It is these types of advances in drugs and devices that were spawned by the 21st Century Cures legislation that Diana DeGette (D-CO) and I led to get enacted in 2016 by President Obama. Expediting the process for the approvals was viewed as one of the most important pieces of legislation enacted in that Congress passing 392-26 in the House and 92-8 in the Senate.
DeGette and I have been working on “Cures 2.0” the last 6 months listening to experts across the country to understand how we can further improve the process to expedite approvals and ensure our agencies have the proper resources. Emphasizing tele-health, digital health, and clinical trials can perhaps be part of this Phase-4. I intend to raise it on a conference call later today with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus (25 Democrats and 25 Republicans that meet every week leaving our partisan labels at the door).
Late yesterday I hosted a tele-town meeting with special guests including Drs. Will Nettleton and Jim Rutherford — Chief medical doctors for Kalamazoo county - answering questions from some 1,500 folks who participated on the call.
A couple note worthy questions centered on how fast would the individual relief checks be received from the US Treasury. It is apparent that those individuals that have filed their taxes electronically or receive Social Security will receive their checks first as automatic deposits into their accounts. Hopefully the ones by mail will soon follow and are likely 2-3 weeks away.
In addition, the guidance for our local lenders that will process the SBA loan/grant money through SBA’s 7A program is still not complete. This discussion by our small businesses needs to start with the local lender, of which most of ours indeed are SBA approved.
I continue to work the phones with our Governor, the White House, and colleagues from both parties across the country dealing with this pandemic. I do appreciate that everyone is trying. You can pass along thoughts at either of my Michigan offices - 269-982-1986 in SJ/BH or 269-385-0039 in Kalamazoo.
Closing words for today...This virus can not enter your home if you keep the door shut...stay inside, please.
God bless, always.
Member of Congress
RESOURCES FOR SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN
ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES - WHAT CAN AND CANNOT STAY OPEN
The Governor’s office and Attorney General’s Office put together a guidance that all businesses must follow, a resource on the rights for critical infrastructure employees, and FAQs that’s useful. Following this guidance will flatten the curve and help people.
WHY SOCIAL DISTANCING WORKS
Dr. Will Nettleton, Kalamazoo County's Medical Director, explains why social distancing works. Remember, it is important to limit personal contact. Watch the video here.
MI.TALENT.ORG HAS JOB OPENINGS
Michigan companies need to fill thousands of critical, immediate vacancies to support work during the COVID-19 pandemic, including those in logistics, healthcare, manufacturing and agribusiness industries. The State’s employment search engine - Pure Michigan Talent Connect - provides job seekers and employers with an online portal at MiTalent.org to post, search and connect to these job openings.