U.S. Rep. Fred Upton discusses the federal response to the COVID-19 crisis and the resources available to businesses. Rep. Upton engaged in a one-on-one discussion with Sandy K. Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton discusses the federal response to the COVID-19 crisis and the resources available to businesses. Rep. Upton engaged in a one-on-one discussion with Sandy K. Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Good afternoon everyone. This is Sandy Baruah from the Detroit regional chamber and welcome to yet another Detroit regional chamber tele town hall. We so appreciate the value of your time and hope that you find these sessions valuable to you. All of these sessions are recorded and available for download. After the session is concluded, you can find this session along with our other sessions at the Chamber's website, which is Detroit chamber.com/covid-19. There is also a business resource site at that , uh, at that address, which has a lot of valuable information and a lot of links to really valuable tools. So without further ado, I am very pleased to welcome our special guest today. We're pleased to have Representative Fred Upton who represents Michigan's sixth district. Upton has been a representative from Michigan since 1993 and prior to that he worked in Washington, both as a congressional staffer and an aid to the Reagan White House. Fred , thank you so much for joining us today.U.S. Rep. Fred Upton:
Absolutely nice to be with you and your many guests that are there. It's a , it's a very valuable tool. This a sharing of information and I just want to confirm that all of us in our delegation from the governor, our senators, all, all of us in the congressional delegation, we're working together as we should.Sandy Baruah:
Well, and you're the Dean now of our delegation and they're serving in that role incredibly well and we're so grateful for your long standing public service and especially the role that you are playing now. Uh , Fred, give us a little bit of a sense of , uh, what things are like in Washington. Uh, I know you aren't physically there, but you are active. The Congress is active even as you're working remotely , uh, kind of what's on Congress's agenda now after the big , Pay Check Protection and CARES act was enacted , uh, just literally a few days ago.U.S. Rep. Fred Upton:
Well, a couple of things. First of all, all of us I think are working from our home kitchens. I am, we closed our office actually before this whole thing started our two offices here in Michigan and back in DC as well. So we're all working multiple phone lines. I'm glad I kept my hard line. Thank you AT&T , but I've got my cell, I've got my, yeah, it's like Michael Patrick Shields, right? It's, I got my AT&T a dream line here and TV in the kitchen and all of that. We're all working early to late or chatting with each other and within our delegation. That is for sure. We all have different ideas and where we can work in divided government. So the only way to get things done is to work together. And we are doing that. I've heard from the governor directly a couple of times today and her office as well as addition to our, our delegation on a host of issues in terms of what we're doing today. It was clear from the start, remember the CARES program passed only week and a half ago and the Pay Check. Protection plan , uh , really went into play only last Friday and through the weekend. So we're like day four , uh , we're all having conference calls. I was on a , almost a two hour conference call this morning with the vice president , uh, with Mnuchin , Deborah Birx , uh, Tony Fauci , uh , Mark Meadows who's the new chief of staff for the President was on as well. A couple of things that I referenced . The PPP program, $350 billion initially is going to run out of money pretty quick. Uh, already, just in day four , 3,500 lenders from around the country have put out , uh , I think they've got 30,000 authorized users that are, that are making loans over here Berrien County where I live, yesterday , just a couple, a handful of small credit, well, maybe not small, but credit unions and the community bankers have made over 500 loans, $125 million, trying to keep these small businesses in play and they're going to double that today. There's real glitches in the program. We know, been dealing with, I've been on a couple of conference calls with our Michigan bankers association. Uh, they're supposed to be, 90% of them I'm told are going to be resolved today. They've got some new uploads that will be done by close of business today, which ought to help with , but some of these glitches. So that's a good thing. But bottom line is we're going to run out of money. It's first come first serve. So that 350 billion already the vice president said today when we started the call at 10:30, I think you said that 90 billion had already been put out the door, so you can tell by early next week will be the sock , will be dry. President yesterday came out with a request for $250 billion more, seemed as though he had an agreement with Mitch McConnell, with Nancy Pelosi, and the leaders on both sides of the aisle and overnight. Now it's grown to the proposal now is a couple of things, more money for the States . 150 billion dollars. I think state local communities, 100 billion for our hospitals and that's a real real demand right now of course, just about every hospital in the country scooted out there, their surgical patients to get ready for this. So their revenue stream is not anywhere close to what it was before. And uh, proposal that the speaker has made, Speaker Pelosi is to increase the food stamps or SNAP program by 15%. So all of a sudden this has gone from 250 billion to about half, a trillion, and I'm not sure where it's going to play and it all has, since we're all home, it has to be done by unanimous consent. So I don't know whether the Senate is going to take this up tomorrow, so it'll be on C -SPAN , watch what happens because whatever they do, then the house will be next. We're in a session on Friday pro forma . But again, you don't have to be done by unanimous consent. You know, just hearing members on conference calls, it's going to be hard to get that larger package through. Yes, I think it would be part of the, an ultimate package later on. But to do it this week, will caused some consternation with some of my colleagues for sure. So stay tuned in terms of what, what happens there. One of the provisions that I'm, normally this would be an hour conference call. Let me just conclude by saying working with our hospitals providers, so they've lost, in essence, their revenue stream has gone to zero and has for a couple of weeks and your side of the State, Sandy, is much harder hit than over here, although our numbers are starting to creep up. With the positive cases and with deaths. We had a number in Kalamazoo, I know yesterday. Um, but our hospital providers their revenue stream is zero. So what was in this last package that the president signed that enabled hospitals to reach back, that they could go to CMS, that's Medicare, that they can reach back, get the six months of Medicare payments and get them day one . And I think you're going to look at us, changing those loans to grants as we did with the PPP program in one of these next elements, one of these next bills. So that's, that's vital that we keep the revenue coming to the hospitals. Cause otherwise, not only do you have big cases of, I health workers testing positive, but you also have potential layoff notices as well. So you've got to make sure that the revenue stream is there. So with that, let me stop and we can have a discussion and take some questions.Sandy Baruah:
Yeah, thank you Congressman. So you mentioned that some of your colleagues might , uh, be a little hesitant to move forward with this 250 or potentially half a trillion dollar additional package. Are these members who might be concerned about, you know, a deficit , you know, just the amount of money we're spending on this crisis. What are some of the issues that some of your colleagues might have expressed some concern about?U.S. Rep. Fred Upton:
Well, my sense is, I mean, so, you know, we have rules in the house. First of all, we have to be there to vote. So , and to change the rules, you've got to have a vote. Uh, but second, it all has to be done by unanimous consent since we're at home. And so when you, you know, we've never, we've never ever passed a bill that was $2.2 Trillion. No single bill has ever been that much, let alone happened on a voice vote where one member, and this, this is actually in the house as well as in the Senate. One member can demand successfully, a recorded vote. So it just takes one to, to put their hand up. AndSandy Baruah:
That has to have happened a week and a half ago, right?U.S. Rep. Fred Upton:
That's right. That's right. I drove back to make sure we had a quorum, a vote was still demanded, but because no one but the speaker, acting speaker, counted and we had more than a quorum that was there. I actually counted 230 members that were there. You need 200. We needed 215. So only one, only Tom Massey . That's who it was, demanded the vote and only he stood and therefore the vote was not accomplished, but you only need 20 or 30 members to stand and you only need one in the Senate to demand a recorded vote. So that's why it has to in essence be deemed at past and you get in essence, a handshake between Schumer and McConnell to get it done with nobody objecting.Sandy Baruah:
Well, having a leader McConnell in agreement with the president, I think that's a huge hurdle to this next package because he was initially skeptical about a fourth package.U.S. Rep. Fred Upton:
Well, that's right, but it's, it's very clear. I mean, again, when you look at the numbers, here we are the fourth day of approvals by our local lenders and it was smart. They have this program, not managed by SBA really , but really by the local lenders who understand and have a relationship with the small businesses. But the , uh, it was smart to have those folks with an existing relationship with their small business, to actually lay the money out, but it's pretty clear after four days the money is going to be gone. I mean, it was just, you know, we're trying to help the employees. I mean, you think about the restaurants, you think about, you know, the small builders. This'll apply to the self employed here as well, though that spigot opens up on Friday and the money may all be gone by Friday, which means that there's gotta be more money that's infused in this to make sure that paychecks are still there for these small business employees , uh , that otherwise, will, those businesses may never reopen and will never get this economy moving back in the right direction again.Sandy Baruah:
Okay . Congressman, as we look across the state of Michigan , uh , we see different parts of the state being impacted by this covid-19 virus differently. Uh, tell us what's happening in your state. I know you lost someone who you knew and had a lot of respect for. Uh , personally, well, I did and Sandy. It's still Fred. So , uh, we, you know, all of our, our districts set up a little bit differently, but I sat down with our health providers. Our big hospitals over here are Lakeland, Spectrum, Bronson, and Borgess, they each have about 600 physicians each, pretty sizable as it relates to Southwest Michigan. Those are the three giants and then they, they have a pretty much in association with the smaller hospitals, whether they be in Three Rivers or Plainwell or, or Allegan or Niles. Um, you know , they all set up, they all have command rooms. They work, you know, for a couple of weeks getting ready for this. And we have really good County health officers here who participated in telecom meetings in Kalamazoo as well as I did one yesterday one or two in Kalamazoo last week. Um, no, our, our sheriffs are linked together. Well we're getting information with the governor's office in terms of preparations, in terms of cases in, you know, for , for Berrien , they went up 20, so that they're in County is about 160,000 people that lived in this County , our positive numbers, went up by 25% from Sunday to Monday. We've had two deaths, so we have 60 some positive test cases. We had the, tragically we had Sandy Patty who was a singer of course she sang at a concert at Andrews University down in Berrien Springs in early March. She tested positive and some of the people that around her were positive as well and we've had five deaths in Kalamazoo County and they're at about 60 positive cases. You know, testing has been an issue getting, getting the PPE . We've had a couple of different employers like we've seen on your side of the state with GM and Ford coming to the rescue and we've come, we've added a couple of employers. Western Michigan University is converted one of their 3D printers to making masks. We've had small business outreach, we've done a lot of teleconference calls with small businesses and others helping people go through the routine of figuring out how to, how to work these forums for the PPE. So it's, and you know, we're staying at home. I'm working out of my kitchen. People are wearing masks on the street there. There's real distancing year. I've had to go to the grocery store a couple of times. They've, they've installed shields now for the clerks. Uh, we're all wearing masks. Actually a suggestion I made to the governor this morning, well to protect our folks really on the front line, like our grocery clerks and others. Maybe we got to follow the same line what California has done requiring that customers actually have a mask now, maybe not a N95 masks, but a mask that you can make yourself or they can provide that are obviously fairly cheap, but provide that protection that the CDC has asked us to do, particularly when we're outside of our homes. The only way to flatten this curve and the numbers are showing this is for us to stay in and lack of virus out . So, there's been pretty good social distancing I would say over on this side of the state, we don't have, we have really one, we have dial ride , but we have one major bus system in Kalamazoo , otherwise most people either walk or drive. The traffic counts are way down. There's very little traffic on the streets or, or downtown as well and people are being very attentive and making sure that they've got the mask and are staying apart from each other. So it's been a, a pretty good attitude which I know is been most productive and keeping on flattening the curve. Great. Fred, let me turn it over to Brad Williams, our vice president of government affairs. He's been monitoring the chat room. Brad, questions from our audience. Yeah, thanks Sandy. And uh , thank you Fred for everything you're doing on behalf of Michiganders. I appreciate, I appreciate all the work that you and your colleagues are putting in. Um , we've had a lot of folks curious about the state of the state budget. And I know in the last financial crisis, a lot of the stimulus bill had a direct aid to state governments because of course, state governments can't , have deficits and can you talk about that in efforts to help state government , state and local governments shore up their own fiscal picture because of course we're looking at pretty significant potential deficits in state spending as well.U.S. Rep. Fred Upton:
Well, we're dealing with a lot of reasons and then the April 15th tax deadline has been moved back. It's now what, July I think. I think of corresponds to the federal level , you look at sales tax revenue, you look at gas tax revenue, all of those are going to be declining by a rather substantial amount, which impacts the local, you know, the revenue sharing payments to our local cities. So you're going to see, and I've heard from the national league of cities, I've heard, again, our governor has been very active with other governors as well. They've been , I think they had a conference call earlier today as well. I think this phase four. So there was some money that was in the last package, a phase three. Uh, but it's not going to be enough. You're going to see a phase four include probably in the, in the neighborhood of about 150 billion, which is what Pelosi is now asking for in this next, she'd like the Senate to take up tomorrow to try and backfill some of the loss of revenue to the States. So at the end, I think you'll see the President's support, something like that. I don't know that he's cited a specific number because after all this is, we're still literally the first week of watching phase three kick in. But as we see the specifics on what the shortfalls are going to be, I saw that Mayor Duggan , on detroitnews.com or M-live earlier today was saying that he thought the city of Detroit was going to have $100 million deficit because of this. We're getting , we're going to need to step up and help , uh , to try and keep our, our cities safe and, and moving forward in the days ahead. So I've heard from a number of our state reps and state senators about this asking for some help. I think I would consider it bipartisan and I think we'll be listening with real ears as to how this proceeds.Brad Williams:
Okay . I think to that end we have another question about what is the long term fiscal implications for the federal government $2.2 Trillion is nothing to sneeze at and certainly , uh, the, the price tag is going to grow and Sandy asked about some of your colleagues caution about spending more money, but you know , what is your thought on what this does to the overall fiscal picture of the federal government and what steps are we gonna have to take in the future to pay for this? Is this going to require, you know, increased revenue from the tax payers in the future or what are your thoughts on that?U.S. Rep. Fred Upton:
Well, it's probably too early to say exactly how it'll go. I know, you know, as Sandy said at the beginning, I worked for President Reagan a long, long time ago and I've always believed in balanced budgets, but it's times like these that , yeah, you're just not going to have it. I mean, this is, this is another world war II . Uh, this is something that, you know, we have to have our country survive and thank goodness we have the resources, the ability to do what we're doing and to try and bring our government, our nation, back to where we want it to be. So in the short term, it's going to be all hands on deck. We're going to have to spend what it takes to help our businesses and their employees , look out for the future of our country and, you know, time will tell how we pay for this at the end of the day. And those discussions will start in earnest once we have the therapeutics, once we have a vaccine, so that people know that we can be safe as we go about the normal routine we've always used to have and one we want to return, but so unclear don't have an answer, I guess is the right question at this point.Brad Williams:
Right. Thank you.You have been a , I think, a real champion for bipartisanship. I know you were a leader in the problem solvers caucus and we have a question here. You know, acknowledging the work you did with E.F. to seek FDA approval of a new method of cleansing. PPE do you think , um, this will maybe usher in a new era of bipartisanship has this maybe , uh, I think this crisis is altering a lot of things permanently. Is this maybe altered the perception of bipartisanship permanently? Do you have hope? That there may be some good things that come out of this?U.S. Rep. Fred Upton:
Well, you know what, I've always been an optimist and the problem solvers caucus and Debbie Dingle and I were there on stage or last year talking a lot about it. She and I are two vice chairs of the problem solvers caucus. Slotkin is a member, so is Paul Mitchell. I would say it's probably the best hour of the week that I have. When we're in session. We meet for an hour every week. We talk about issues that were involved in how we can work together. We leave our partisan labels at the door and we had a conference call. We've had two this week. Uh, one was Steve Scalise , uh, the Republican whip. I would expect that we'll probably have Steny Hoyer or Jim Cliburn on in the next week or so. I'm actually missing another conference call with them today. That's going on as we all work together to see what we can do. But specifically what Alissa Slotkin and my colleague from East Lansing , had a, I thought a wonderful idea is we all scramble. We all compete with other States to get this PPE, personal protection equipment , our mass, our gowns, et cetera for our providers and first responders. She has been working with Michigan State University who is designed a system. They would actually be able to reuse these by cleansing them through a heat treatment. And she worked with Michigan State over the weekend. It has to be FDA approved and I said more than you know, which are otherwise designed to single use. The N95. So they've worked on a system that they think will meet the specs they submitted last night to the FDA. Uh, I've been in touch with the FDA a couple of times today as so has she, I use my committee connections. I've used to chair the energy and commerce committee, so we have a brilliant staff and they helped us connect with a , with the FDA, literally the chairman's office and we're hoping to get a decision from the FDA relative to the sanctity of this design, literally within the next 24 to 48 hours. So we can actually see this implemented in instead of, you know, seeking these products from Malaysia and China and you know, where else they're coming from that we can actually, reuse those. Uh , I've looked at the proposal, it's 15 pages long. I'd like to think that we can get that proposal done and then it'll be a real credit to, not only to problem solvers, but certainly from just looking outside the box of how we can help people here in Michigan and , we're working together on a host of fronts. We're working on a system where we can vote remotely so that we don't have to go back in times of emergency , uh, as you know, we lost a very talented state rep who passed away with this. We've got another one that's tested positive, I know, in Michigan as well, you have those same concerns. When Congress comes back, we have 535 people , folks over 60 years and the different conditions that are there, we've all come from different parts of the district you get or of the country. How do you get people on planes from the West coast? I mean all these different issues that surface in times like these might do better to caucus and be able to vote from your kitchen. Knowing that it's only a temporary time and our caucuses is working on some proposed by problem solvers. Caucus is working on some proposals there, but no, it's the deficit, I mean we were the ones responsible for reopening up the government a year ago, the shut down for 35 days. We passed a major ag-immigration bill that I had a hand in. Paul Mitchell did a great job on that too. I think very much all of us voted for it to get it done. Setting the stage for immigration reform. A a long term issue that certainly we have to deal with. So it's been an important part of my life and frankly it's what my constituents I think would prefer, you know, you've got your hardcore on both sides, but most people don't care if you have an R or D next to your name. They want the job done. They want you to take the good ideas and work together to get things done and we have no choice, with divided government, that's the only way to get a bill across the doc to get it done.Brad Williams:
Well thank you. And I'll take this opportunity to plug two people you mentioned Paul Mitchell. He was going to be our guest on the tele town hall on Friday morning at 10:30 and Alissa Slotkin is going to be with us next week. The exact day slips my memory, but you'll be able to find those at the website. Detroit chamber.com/ COVID19. Um, and I have one last question for you Fred and then I will hand it back to Sandy because I know we are running short on time. Uh, there are a handful of questions in here about the status of nonprofits in the CARES act and I know our friends at the US chamber have been relentless in hitting you on the status of 501c6 under paycheck protection. So I will not get you on that, but there is a question about larger nonprofits who exceed 500 employees and their ability to apply under this and is there any thought to allowing larger nonprofits to get some relief under SBA programs?U.S. Rep. Fred Upton:
Yeah, I think that it's going to be pretty hard to do that . The cap is, this is that traditional number that small business viewed in 500 employees. They're the ones that actually run the 7/8 program, which is what PPP is working under . We added the self employed to that, those, those doors applications open up on Friday and a couple of other things, but I think it will be, knowing that this money's going to be gone and the second round will be gone fairly quickly too. I think it's going to be pretty hard to go above a 500 for the , at least for this particular program. Now there's some other things that, you know, for the Marriott, you know, the for profit business, the Marriotts , the Boeing's , uh , you know, obviously the airlines have their own little special, I'll call it a carve out that was there. Uh, but I think it's going to be hard at this point, but we'll see, you know, and we're all going to come back at some point. We're all going to come back. We've got all these ideas where we're hearing from our constituents and we'll see how this thing gets put together, like a jigsaw puzzle at the end for phase four.Brad Williams:
Great. Thank you. And I , I've been , uh, notified that , uh, a Congresswoman's Slotkin is going to be with us on Monday at 1:00 PM. Uh, so I will hand it back to you Sandy.Sandy Baruah:
Great . Brad, thank you so much, Fred, we know that you are actually missing and energy and commerce committee conference call regarding this next phase of the federal assistance. So we're going to let you get back to that. Thank you for stepping away from that meeting to be with us at the Detroit regional chamber. My very best to you, Fred and Amy , and the rest of the family , and continued to be safe and thank you so much for your public service. Really appreciate it.U.S. Rep. Fred Upton:
Well, God bless you all. Thank you.Sandy Baruah:
Great. Thanks Fred . Thank you everyone. Enjoy the rest of your day. Take care.