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Detroit News op-ed: Congress should get back to work, too

May 6, 2020
Opinion Editorial

Eight weeks ago, the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Michigan. In that time span, life has been turned upside down. Restaurants and small businesses have shuttered, schools have transitioned to remote learning, and tragically, too many of our fellow citizens have lost a friend or loved one.

In Michigan’s hour of hardship, the Trump administration has been a strong partner as we tackle this unprecedented challenge. Thanks to the leadership of President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and the Coronavirus Task Force, communities across our state have received a steady stream of resources to support everyone from frontline workers to Main Street businesses.

Like many states, Michigan has faced an urgent need for medical supplies. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stepped in and delivered 700 ventilators, 1.1 million N-95 respirators, and 900,000 surgical masks, and more personal protective equipment (PPE) from the Strategic National Stockpile. By way of the Supply Chain Task Force, Michigan received an additional 280 million pieces of gloves, masks, and other PPE. Overall, FEMA has directed more than $246 million to the state of Michigan.

Funding from the federal level has also been critical in supporting hospitals statewide. In the first wave of CARES Act funding, medical providers received more than $936 million. An additional $32.5 million was sent to community health centers to bolster the response effort. The federal government is also supporting mobile testing sites around the state as well as the assembly of two alternative care facilities in southeast Michigan.

Through the first round of the Paycheck Protection Program, the U.S. Small Business Administration approved loans to more than 43,000 Michigan small businesses and injected over $10 billion into our economy. That number is sure to grow with the program’s renewed funding, keeping more workers on the job. 

As K-12 schools recalibrate how they deliver education, the U.S. Department of Education waived standardize testing requirements, granted greater flexibility on use of funding, and allocated $390 million to help address student needs. To support postsecondary education, federal student loan payments were halted and Michigan’s community colleges and four-year institutions received more than $177 million to issue student grants and address funding shortfalls. 

These are just a few examples of how the Trump administration has stood in Michigan’s corner. As additional CARES Act dollars are distributed, our state will receive even greater support from the federal government.

It will require a continued spirit of collaboration — neighbors helping neighbors, public and private sectors joining forces, and a whole-of-government approach — to guide us through this crisis.

Certainly, more unique obstacles await us in the days to come — both on the health and economic front. But Michigan is better positioned to ultimately win this attack on our lives and livelihoods because of the widespread support from Trump and his team.

To build on these relief efforts, the people of Michigan need their elected representatives to fulfill their core functions. At the federal level that means, instead of canceling session, Speaker Nancy Pelosi needs to call the U.S. House of Representatives back to Washington to resume its legislative responsibilities.

In these past eight weeks, Michiganians have learned how to adapt and responsibly follow social distancing guidelines. Many of them have been asked to work all along in essential jobs. As we take steps to safely re-open sectors of the economy, many more are about to head back to work. The People’s House needs to do the same.

Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, represents Michigan’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. This op-ed originally appeared in the May 6 edition of the Detroit News.