Certainly a stressful and emotional time as we all take a moment and reflect on what we really miss in life. No question, our family and friends. Amey often reminds me that I will probably not go to my grave wishing I had spent more time at the office (Not an original thought)...But truly, during this Holy Week, with Passover starting tonight and Good Friday and Easter later this week, many of us will reflect on how this pandemic has altered our routines.
My day started with reviewing my memo sent at 1:03 AM from my health subcommittee staff with my daily update.
I heard from two of my local state legislators last night about chloroquine prescriptions not being filled by local pharmacists - perhaps to some confusing directives by the state. As you may know, this FDA approved drug for diseases like lupus, arthritis, and malaria has long been in existence. It is this drug that is in trials for Coronavirus. In fact, this drug is available in the commercial market and there are no federal restrictions on physicians prescribing and pharmacists dispensing. Any federal restrictions apply only to the National Stockpile supplies ensuring supplies for those with lupus, arthritis, and malaria. Long ago, I supported bipartisan Right to Try legislation that President Trump signed into law that moved through the Energy and Commerce Committee.
70% of the advance Medicare payments for our hospitals have been approved totaling $34 billion and reflecting 25,000 requests. These payments are imperative to try and prevent health care personnel layoffs with the knowledge that there are significant numbers of health care workers that have tested positive. There will be another $30 billion in grants to health care providers approved later this week based on past Medicare providers.
The CMS Administrator was part of a lengthy conference call I joined this morning, led by Vice President Pence. Dr. Tony Fauci and the State Department also were on the call.
On my conference call with Vice President Pence
Pence thanked us for our work on behalf of our constituents during this very difficult time for everyone. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin focused on the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which began last Friday and has already pushed out $90 billion in loans. He acknowledged, as we well know, that there have been major glitches but promised fixes. Three of them include: 1) Lenders can now use their own note forms; 2) the period of closing the loan to being funded has been expanded to 10 days; and 3) We are now counting the date of loan disbursement by the lender toward the 8 weeks needed for the loan to be converted to a grant. There are more than 3,500 lenders approved, yet 1/3 of the community banks did not have access.
Secretary Mnuchin said we were still on track for the individual checks to be automatically deposited before the end of next week for those that have filed taxes electronically or receive Social Security in that form. Web portals will be established for those wanting those checks rather than waiting for the mail.
Later I participated in a Detroit Chamber conference call which you can listen to from their website, Detroitchamber.com/covid19. I praised the other three Michigan Members of Congress (Dingell, Slotkin, and Mitchell) that are members of the Problem Solvers Caucus and the work we have done together for our state during this crisis. I also brought them up to speed on our next steps to continue the PPP program. Remember, the self-employed become eligible this Friday to apply and the money is first come, first serve. That’s why the President yesterday called for another $250 billion to refill the program. It appears that the Senate will take action Thursday on that request. Should they pass it by unanimous consent, the House could take it up either Friday or Tuesday next week. Speaker Pelosi and Democratic Leader Schumer are trying to attach additional funding for the states and hospitals which may or may not happen. Depending what the Senate decides in an empty chamber will then dictate the action in the House. Any individual member could call for a recorded vote with the questioning of a quorum...Stay tuned. Very fluid as I write this Wednesday night.
Later, I participated in another conference call (so glad I kept my landline and still have my cell) with the heads of the National Federation of Independent Business, Business Roundtable (BRT), National Association of Manufacturers, and the Chamber of Commerce. They were very grateful for the action of the Congress thus far. Even with the assistance, Moody’s has apparently indicated that they suspect we will lose 1.5 million manufacturing jobs. BRT said months from now, no one would say we went “too small.” Rightly so, workforce safety will be an issue we have to deal with to get workers back. This is an issue I have started to work on with fellow Auto and Problem Solvers Caucus colleague Debbie Dingell. This must be a partnership between business and labor.
In that respect, this morning I encouraged the Governor to request that all shoppers follow what is now practiced in California...wear masks! In my trip to the grocery store earlier this week, a good majority of fellow shoppers wore masks along with the clerks. I know they would appreciate 100% compliance. The masks don’t have to be N95 but cloth seems to work to protect all parties. We certainly don’t want to deny shoppers, but I have seen a good many friends hand-making masks that could suffice—especially if the word goes out.
PPE Colleague Slotkin emailed me about the MSU proposal to get the FDA approval for cleansing/reusing PPE. This would make so much sense for anyone on the front lines. I looked through their proposal and will confer with the FDA Thursday morning to try and expedite.
I signed off on two bipartisan letters. One to our leadership for $15 billion for our nation’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). With some 20 million workers likely laid off by July, workers will need help. I heard from a number of local workforce leaders requesting me to sign on.
As a founding member of the Fire Caucus, I also asked our leadership to prioritize funding for first responders including PPE, hazard pay through FEMA, and resources to address gaps in sick leave. Earlier, I held a conference call with Michigan sheriffs and they raised this issue with me.
Thursday I will be talking with our Secretary of Agriculture. Yesterday I joined with 108 colleagues looking for support for specialty crops that our local fruit and vegetable growers raised with me last week. In addition to the funds already approved by the President in CARES, we have real labor issues under the H2(A) program that requires immediate attention. Our growers need folks from Asparagus through Apples (April-October) to help in the fields. They are making the decisions now and PPE is also a concern for them and their workforce. The issues never really end, do they?
A reminder that social distancing really has been instrumental in perhaps a flattening of the curve. The lowered 60,000 predicted mortality number is a direct result, but there are hot spots still to come. Wear a mask outside your house as the CDC has recommended.
Member of Congress
RESOURCES FOR SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN
ICYMI: NEW CORONAVIRUS RESOURCE GUIDE FOR SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN
My office today put together a Resource Guide to help southwest Michigan families, workers, and small businesses impacted by the coronavirus crisis. We wanted to be sure you had all of the information in one place, but as this crisis continues, we will continue to update it and make additions. Click here for the Resource Guide.