News from Representative Upton

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May 6, 2020

@MyKitchenTable: Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Dear Friend:

A new notes to start this evening:

  • The SBA announced that agricultural businesses are now eligible for the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans as part of the PPP.  That portal reopened today for farmers and certain other ag businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and you can see those details HERE.
  • CMS issued additional Frequently Asked Questions to aid state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in response to COVID-19 and you can see those details HERE.
  • Since April 12, 40 flights carrying more than 35M FEMA-procured masks and respirators from the company 3M have landed in the U.S. FEMA, HHS, and other federal agencies are distributing cloth face coverings for critical infrastructure workers with more than 72M being processed and distributed to state and private entities.
  • In addition to yesterday’s news regarding Pfizer, last week AstraZeneca and Oxford University announced an agreement for the global development and distribution of Oxford’s vaccine candidate against SARAS-CoV-2.  Under the agreement, AZ would be responsible for development and worldwide manufacturing.  I spoke today to AZ and they indeed are excited with the news and the onset of human trials.  They are very much committed to the U.S. and you can see a couple of stories HERE and HERE and HERE.

The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus (PSC) had a zoom call with Speaker Pelosi this afternoon.  We have had similiar calls with other Republican and Democratic leaders over the last several weeks. I think you will chuckle as she started off by saying, “Thank you for unmuting me!”   There has been quite a bit of conversation among our caucus members regarding possible voting procedural issues (we have always been required to vote in person using cards which record our votes only on the House Floor) that would allow for proxy voting.  We have also had quite a bit of discussion on what the next “Phase IV” of funding for the pandemic would look like. Though she did not provide a specific outline, she indicated that legislation could be ready as early as next week. It would involve more funds for testing and treatment, as well as funds for states and local units of government that would be limited to actual outlays for COVID-19 and for revenues lost due to sales tax losses, etc. The total package would not likely “make them whole.” My question centered on the liability issue. I noted that the PSC had stuck together on a number of issues, including reopening the government after the shutdown last year after meeting with the president and passing a major agriculture immigration bill in the House in December by nearly 100 votes.  Mitch McConnell indicated early on that the next package would need to provide for liability relief. I mentioned that there did not appear to be such a component in her outline. During these days of divided government, only legislation that is truly bipartisan will get enacted.  I’ve heard from a number of health providers and others raising real questions as to the scope of the potential liability. The Speaker’s response was that OSHA needed to provide the guidelines for safety which of course has not occurred yet. In my view, this issue will need to be addressed in the package that reaches the President. 

The day closed with former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley commenting on China and the role they continue to play on the world stage.  She continues to believe that the world’s perception of China is important to them, and it’s important for the U.S. to build coalitions to challenge them. There is a book on my reading list, “The Hundred-Year Marathon,” outlining their strategy to replace the U.S. as a global superpower.  Haley very much believes in the theory that the book is advancing and took a good number of questions from my colleagues.

Lastly, I again wanted to truly thank my wonderful staff.  We have all been working out of our homes in different communities.  We’ve been able to return phone calls and emails sent to my office and have helped folks navigate this crisis and try to ease the pain of so many different pressures.  Thank You — Big Time!

I asked that each of my staff to write up a paragraph on just some of their work these past 51 days and here they are:

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My Chief of Staff, who helps lead my team!
  1. I spend most of my time helping constituents navigate tax and financial difficulties and problems with the IRS, and we have received so many of those requests during this crisis. I was able to recently help one constituent, a young man in the military who, due to an error by his training base, had gone three months without pay (as no member of our armed forces should ever have to do). He had just been stationed overseas that day and arrived to his new base receiving no pay. Within 1 day of involvement from our office, we were able to get him immediate emergency funding for his transition overseas and back into pay status with retroactive pay on the way. 
  2. Recently, I worked with a constituent who reached out to our office because their Marketplace Health Insurance plan was terminated due to clerical issues and misinformation. They unfortunately had major illnesses and were seriously concerned for their health as they were having to cancel doctor’s appointments due to lack of insurance. The reinstatement appeal was denied but contained erroneous information. We reached out to our liaisons and requested that the appeal be reopened due to the erroneous information and expedited due to the urgent medical need. The appeal was reopened and our constituent was approved for insurance retroactively.
  3. A young Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton contacted us because he had just received word that his beloved grandfather had suddenly passed away. The Grandfather had raised the soldier since infancy and was the only “father” he ever knew. His command refused to allow him to come home for the funeral saying it was just a grandparent, not an actual father. The soldier was very distraught and I was very concerned. If they didn’t let him come back, he was planning on going AWOL. We had serious conversations between the Pentagon and Camp Pendleton. Finally at the end of a long, tense day, he was granted leave and was able to attend the funeral.  The family was beyond grateful.
  4. An elderly veteran died in a house fire. Upon his death, he was supposed to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. All of his service records were destroyed in the house fire. We had to recreate all the records within 24 hours so the family could bury him at Arlington. Fortunately, we were successful and his loved ones were able to be with him at burial. Many tears of joy and sadness were shed at that one.
  5. A large focus of mine has been on getting a soldier home from a war zone to see his father who is gravely ill. The process has taken over a week and travel has been complicated due to the COVID 19 and the obvious struggles of bringing him out of the war zone. He is on his way home now and the soldier and I talk daily via Messenger. We also talk with his family almost daily to get an update at the request of the soldier.
  6. We received communication from the friends and family of a young woman who worked on a cruise ship. They were worried that she would not be able to return home soon after being in quarantine on a cruise ship. We immediately began working with the offices of Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ted Deutch, contacted Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, federal agencies, and officials in Florida to assist the young woman. We were finally able to assist her and she was reunited with her family. I spoke with her and her family, and we are all so glad that she is on firm ground and homeward bound, soon to be reunited with her Southwest Michigan friends and family.
  7. We received a request for assistance from a local Farm. The farmers were concerned with the possible loss of their crop by not having their temporary work applications approved in time. Our office contacted USCIS and the applications were approved. They now have the needed workers harvesting their crops.

Most folks only contact a congressional office once in a lifetime, but when it happens, we go to bat.  As I told one national publication today, “If we can solve it in Three Oaks, we can solve it in Three Rivers.”  I have been so fortunate to have a great staff here and back in D.C. that have a caring heart, big ears to listen, and fingers to respond. I know from experience that we are not able to resolve every case with a “win” but one never wins without trying.

 

Michigan is the auto state so today’s inspiration by Knute Rockne stands out...

"An automobile goes nowhere efficiently unless it has a quick, hot spark to ignite things, to set the cogs of the machine in motion.  So I try to make every player on my team feel he’s the spark keeping our machine in motion.  On him depends our successes.” 

I would only add the word “her” as well. 

 

Thank you all.


God bless,


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Fred 

 

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