Early today, fellow co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solver’s Caucus Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and I were guests on a Michigan Banker Association statewide conference call relating to the Paycheck Protection Program's (PPP) $350 billion that is rapidly running out of funds. Talking to local lenders, it continues to be a success and it appears that most of the snags are finally resolved. One lender today told me he was “so happy” for his small businesses and had more than 25 loans officially approved by the SBA today. Nationally, more than 905K loans have been approved totaling over $220 billion. One concern on the call was the requirement that all the employees had to be called back. Some industries, like tourism, may have an issue with that early on, which would prevent the loans from becoming grants. I shared that concern with GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy on a later conference call and expect Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to address that later this week.
Congress is still at loggerheads on approving additional funding for the PPP. I am still hoping we can resolve this issue by week’s end to continue funding our small businesses. We are not likely to formally return until May 4, which thus requires an agreement between the House, Senate, and White House.
Working from the kitchen table with flowers from Amey's garden
PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) continues to be an ongoing issue. I was contacted by a good source today that wants to assist with Michigan’s needs, and I immediately reached out to the Governor’s office and put her envoy in touch with this major supplier. I also heard from my Michigan colleague Rep. Slotkin who - with me - has asked the FDA to approve both an MSU and Michigan Tech project to cleanse PPE. The word from FDA is encouraging, and I anticipate hearing more very soon. In addition, it appears as though 50K masks will each be available to Borgess and Bronson before the end of the week.
Our office has been flooded with calls from Main Street businesses the last number of days regarding the Governor's most recent Executive Order. I have shared my thoughts that most of us have mastered social distancing with handmade masks and can navigate the dairy and vegetable aisles and cashiers without issues. It seems that outdoor activity like landscaping and recreational activities can go forth with proper social distancing that will prevent the spread of COVID-19. To that end, I will be joining Rep. Paul Mitchell and a number of other Michigan colleagues asking for constructive relief.
We all want a successful vaccine and proper therapeutics to help those afflicted by this virus. There has been a lot written and discussed on the possibility of hydroxychloroquine. I reached out to both Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins - who heads the NIH - over the weekend. Dr. Fauci responded indicating that they will be initiating large studies that could possibly answer the questions. I reported earlier that Henry Ford Hospital has begun a 3,000 person study. There was news reported today on a Brazilian study that did not prove successful that you can find HERE. A number of us have raised the issue that HIPAA (personal privacy protocols) provisions prohibit the sharing of data, making it difficult for survivors of COVID-19 to have their blood anti-bodies utilized for those that are stricken. The CDC has begun looking at trials.
During the last week I circulated a bipartisan letter written to HHS with my Energy and Commerce colleague Elliot Engle (D-NY) that more than 100 of my colleagues agreed to sign. Medicare beneficiaries in need of medical care or treatment for issues unrelated to Coronavirus face a grueling decision as to whether they should seek care in a doctor's office where they might be exposed - or get no care at all. We want to ensure that all Americans can receive care and medications in safe settings—particularly at home. You can find that letter HERE.
Lastly, I reached out to JBS, a major meat packer with a fairly large operation in Plainwell. You may have seen the national story today of the closure of a Smithfield hog packer that produces 5% of the nation's pork needs. I was pleased to hear that JBS has taken a number of impressive initiatives to protect their workers and thus the supply. They have reduced their production by 50%; they're doing 1,000 head of cattle today. They are providing full face shields and dividers and worked closely with the county health department. Social distancing is a must, and they feel they are taking every precaution. I might note they are a big supplier of Costco.
I understand that yesterday the first $1,200 individual checks began to appear automatically in folks' bank accounts.
Celebrating Easter this past weekend I know many of us missed our relatives and friends who normally would be joining us. For Amey and I, we wished we could see our new grandchild Thomas in person! We hope to hold him again soon but are so grateful for the gift of his life.
The flowers from Amey's garden today remind us to focus on "whatsoever is lovely and pure" and keep plowing forward for better days.
Member of Congress
RESOURCES FOR SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN
UPDATED CORONAVIRUS WEBSITE
Today my office published an updated website on resources available to help southwest Michigan families, individuals, and businesses. On our website, you can find the Southwest Michigan Resource Guide that could help answer FAQ. Click here for the resource website.