I must confess it is hard to believe that less than a week has gone by since I made the drive back and forth to D.C. to ensure that the Congress passed the 3rd bill dealing with Coronavirus. As I talk with literally hundreds of colleagues — many here in Michigan — with the Administration, with national health experts, and with so many small and large businesses with very legitimate questions on how to survive this pandemic — especially for their employees — I know we made the right decision to pass the CARES Act last week rather than wait another few days for needed relief. As I said from the very start, we need to leave political labels at the door and work with everyone who has a good idea to move forward.
I am certain that we all know someone, famous or not, that has been stricken. One notable woman is Dr. Mona, who was the one more responsible probably than anyone to expose the Flint water crisis with the country. I was with her a number of times over the years, both in Flint and D.C. where she testified. Her Congressman, Dan Kildee, and I passed legislation signed into law by President Obama that requires the EPA to alert communities and states when they first become aware of lead issues that threaten a community. Sadly, we learned that the Chicago EPA Administrator had “sat” on that information for 9 months without action. Dr. Mona has been diagnosed as positive, and Dan has asked that we include her in our prayers for a recovery.
As I reached out today to our major health providers, they tell me that they think we are still 2-3 weeks away from peaking and the numbers in recent days indeed show a ramping up of positive tests. PPE and testing agents are in the pipeline but we will need more. Another advisory and directive from me is STAY AT HOME. Please do not put your neighbors and colleagues or strangers at risk. We all know friends and family on the front lines working in an increasingly challenging situation in our hospitals. We have got to stem the tide for everyone's sake. Though N-95 mask shortages are nationwide and rightly so prioritized for health workers, wearing a self-made mask when outdoors may be a useful form of protection, though not a reason to disregard social distancing.
This morning I participated in a conference call with both our U.S. Senators with Admiral Giroir (Assistant Secretary at HHS) regarding testing supplies (swabs, re-agents, Abbott 5 minute test machines, etc.). My sense is that despite our entire delegation’s strong continued push for more PPE and the like, there are no more strings to pull as there are empty shelves everywhere. Despite the “air bridges” and creative thoughts, there is no magic wand.
But don’t despair. My Lansing colleague (and Problem Solver Caucus colleague) Elissa Slotkin reached out with news that MSU had some solid ideas for both cleansing and manufacturing PPE but lacked FDA approvals at this point. I receive a nightly memo at about midnight that provides me an update on a host of issues across the country regarding Coronavirus. This email includes links to agencies that can be helpful to answering questions. As I write this column this afternoon, we are now in the process of linking the right folks to MSU — Go Green! (Those of you that know my true colors can confirm that I work with anyone who can help!)
This morning I participated in a conference call with about 200 colleagues and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. I confirmed with him that the SBA’s 7A program infused with $350 billion last week was now in full effect, approving local lender application’s for small businesses that would be converted to grants in 2 months once verified they were used for personnel. Yes, there were major glitches in the internet portals that we are still working to open, which has impacted lenders here in SW Michigan. My Michigan colleague Bill Huizenga, who serves on the Financial Services Committee, told me that the system had been overwhelmed and behind, but they planned to work through the weekend and expected the system to clear all of the requests. They had processed more loan requests than SBA had conducted all of last year in just the first few hours. There is a long-term saying in my office that we are going to stay on this issue as a dog to a frisbee. Alec Zender on my staff has been working hand in glove with both businesses and lenders since literally 3 AM today. I heard at 7 AM that we probably saved 100’s of jobs thanks to his work with just one case. Thank you, Alec! Beers and burgers for you at North Pier when we see a light at the end of the tunnel. These loans have to go through.
I hope to put together a portal of information early next week for any small business in our district to reach out. Obviously, the $350 billion is going to be gone fast and Secretary Mnuchin confirmed that the Administration expected that the Congress would appropriate more funds when these are exhausted. He also said that they have approved refundable tax credits for employee retention.
In addition, I helped organize a conference call with our six county Sheriffs and had the head of the Michigan Association of Sheriffs on the call as well. I’ve also signed a letter with a number of my Michigan colleagues (Tlaib, Peters, Mitchell, Dingell, Levin, Kildee, Lawrence, and Stevens thus far) asking FEMA to waive cost-sharing requirements for grants as they meet their firefighting and emergency needs. All of my Sheriffs are in need of PPE and have had a number of officers test positive, which has allowed them to coordinate absences with other departments. The county jails have reduced their populations. The departments have been coordinating with their county health officials, dispatch offices, and Public Safety Agency Points (PSAP’s—in essence their 9-1-1 facilities) to ensure their officers are safe.
Today’s picture is a wonderful neighborhood young boy who was looking at our chalked sidewalk words “stay healthy, stay strong”. Rewarding good behavior is something we all need to do!
Today’s inspiration comes from a poem given to my Uncle Dave in 1943 and written by Amelia Earhart...
"Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace,
The Soul that knows it not
Knows no release from little things:
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights where bitter joy can hear
The sound of wings.
How can Life grant us boon of living, compensate
For dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate
Unless we dare
The Soul’s dominion? Each time we make a choice, we pay
With courage to behold resistless day,
And count if fair."
God bless, always.
Member of Congress
RESOURCES FOR SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN
NEWS: WMU 3D printers producing face shields and masks for health care workers
Western Michigan University’s 3D printers aren’t sitting idle during the pandemic. Instead, staff and professors from multiple campus departments are using them to produce personal protective equipment —specifically face shields—for health care workers who desperately need them during the COVID-19 patient surge. Click here to learn more.
PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM
Starting today, April 3, 2020 small businesses and sole proprietorships will be able to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and on Friday, April 10, 2020 independent contractors and self-employed individuals will be able to apply. Click here to learn more.
Southwest Michigan First also put together a helpful financial relief resource guide that you can access here.