Inspiration today starts at the top by Michigander Henry Ford:
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
We are all looking for the lighthouse and the safe harbor from this pandemic. Here is a view of the north Pier in St Joe this week.
Some early numbers that greeted me this morning:
- HHS announced that it will collaborate with multiple non-governmental organizations on development of convalescent plasma and hyperimmune globulin immunotherapies to treat COVID-19. Click here for more info.
- More than 2.9M tests for COVID-19 in the U.S.
- HHS announced 5 new contracts for ventilator production under the Defense Production Act (DPA). In total they will supply 6,190 ventilators to the National Stockpile by May 8, 29,510 by June 1, and 137,431 by year’s end.
- The Administration has issued guidance to ensure Americans with private health Insurance have coverage of COVID-19 diagnostic testing at no cost. Click here for more information.
- Shipments of approximately 10 million FEMA-procured N95 masks from 3M began with 600K arriving April 12. Project Airbridge has completed 37 flights with an additional 43 scheduled carrying PPE.
- Beaumont Health system in Michigan reported huge financial losses underscoring the need to provide a lifeline to our health providers. Last week 15 of the 16 members of the Michigan congressional delegation signed on to a legislative proposal providing a lifeline to all our hospitals. Click here for more information.
- The Treasury released its guidelines for the $150 billion payment to states and municipalities. You can find those guidelines HERE.
Today, I participated in a statewide agriculture radio interview discussing labor issues (H2A) that many of our growers are impacted by. Now that fresh, local asparagus is getting close to our grocery store aisles, the Agriculture Department is close to releasing new guidance regarding specialty crops like fruits and vegetables. Spring is such an important time for our local growers as they make decisions that will dictate their year. Click here to read the article.
Many of you have watched former FDA Chairman Scott Gottlieb on national TV, as he has been recognized as one of the best experts on the ongoing situation. He was a frequent witness when I chaired the Energy and Commerce Committee and helped us immensely as we wrote the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act, which expedites the approvals of drugs and devices coupled with nearly $50 billion in additional health research funds. My legislative partner, Diana DeGette (D-CO) last fall began the process of updating Cures, three years since President Obama signed it into law. Diana and I reached out to Gottlieb to solicit some of his ideas to insert into a Phase IV when Congress returns in May. We started that conversation today and hope to have some concrete proposals ready to discuss by the end of the week that can ultimately find answers to the questions we all have raised - whether it be related to immunotherapy advances, ensuring diversity in clinical trials, or being better prepared for a future pandemic.
The day continued with a lengthy conference call with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and GOP leaders Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise. Before noon today, there had been more than one million PPP loans approved totaling more than $240 billion. Because it is first come, first serve...we expect the fund to be exhausted before the end of the week which absolutely means it has to be refunded. The intent, of course, is to have employees be compensated from their same small business rather than tap their state unemployment funds. No word yet on any resolution among congressional leaders required to add funds into the program. I still hope we can see an agreement between all the parties by the end of the week.
Secretary Mnuchin indicated that some 80 million checks had been automatically deposited into individual bank accounts beginning last Friday. Beginning tomorrow, folks can go to www.irs.gov and navigate the website if they believe they should be eligible for the individual checks and verify an account or mailing address.
In addition, I participated in a bipartisan zoom call with the Problem Solvers Caucus members with special guest Senator Cassidy from Louisiana. Our challenge we have taken on is to figure out the best way to open up the country and accommodate the business/employee safeguards that will be needed. That’s why the Ford quote at the top is so important.
Not last was my conference call with the Michigan Council of Foundations. It just so happens that this organization is certainly one of the best in the nation working with family, community, and corporate foundations of all sizes across the state. The Kalamazoo Foundation told me that they have seen some 20,000 calls to 2-1-1, of which 35% were directly tied to COVID-19 issues. Many local charities have cancelled fundraising events due to social distancing such as 5 and 10K walks and runs, dinners, etc. They depend on these for so many worthwhile causes whether it be cancer, mental health, MS, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, soup kitchens, ending sexual abuse, homelessness, suicide prevention, lupus, OCD.... I was excited to learn that the House Ethics Committee is allowing some flexibility in allowing Members of Congress to encourage charitable giving and will soon provide such portals to my constituents. I will continue to work with my colleagues to identify potential avenues to provide incentives for corporations and individuals to give to these worthy charities, helping to provide for the many needs of our communities, particularly in this very tough climate.
My day is not over as I participate in a Teletown with State Rep Beth Griffin (Van Buren County) tonight and then on a national Teletown call with Problem Solvers Caucus members from across the country until 9PM.
Member of Congress
RESOURCES FOR SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN
ICYMI: 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.