Rep. Peterson's Newsletter and Questionnaire 5/18/2020

May 19, 2020
Newsletter

I joined my colleagues in the MN Congressional Delegation in a video encouraging plasma donations

Dear Friends,

I recently led a bipartisan letter to President Trump urging the Administration to provide assistance for farmers who have needed to depopulate and dispose of livestock following the closure of meatpacking plants due to coronavirus outbreaks and worker safety concerns. On Wednesday, I joined several Midwest agriculture stakeholders on a panel to discuss the farm economy and the supply chain issues that I am working to address in Congress.

Governor Walz announced the next phase of state’s coronavirus response. Beginning today, non-critical businesses will be able to reopen with a social distancing plan and operate at 50 percent capacity. The Governor’s office is preparing further guidance to safely reopen bars, restaurants, barbershops and salons in the near future. I support the move to begin opening up Minnesota, especially rural areas with few or no cases.

On Friday, I was in Washington DC to vote for the HEROES Act to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the related economic crisis. The bill isn’t perfect, but there are many positive aspects including provisions for testing and tracing capabilities and support for ag producers.

Sincerely,

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Congressman Collin C. Peterson

Minnesota 7th District

MN Congressional Delegation Urges Plasma Donation

Click play to watch the Minnesota Delegation’s video on plasma donation

I joined with the other members of Minnesota’s Congressional Delegation for a video urging Minnesotans who have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) and recovered to donate plasma as part of the federally sponsored Expanded Access Program for convalescent plasma, an investigational treatment program for COVID-19. Go to USCovidPlasma.org or RedCrossBlood.org to find your closest donation center.

Watch the Minnesota Congressional Delegation's video on plasma donation.

Congratulations to U of M Class of 2020

Click play to watch my video remarks to U of M graduates

 I’m proud to represent the campuses of the University of Minnesota Morris and the University of Minnesota Crookston, and it was an honor to be able to send a congratulatory video to students who participated in commencement from all the U of M campuses. Graduating in the age of coronavirus is a good reminder that life is full of unexpected challenges. Congratulations to the Class of 2020 from the University of Minnesota and to all students throughout the 7th District who graduated this year!

Watch my video congratulation the UMN Class of 2020.

Eggs & Issues

Eggs & Issues panelists

I recently participated in a panel discussion for the Eggs & Issues webinar sponsored by Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo Chamber of Commerce. In the discussion on “The Farm Economy – Stable, Rebounding, or Declining?,” I shared some of my concerns for the future of agriculture, including supply chain issues in meat and ethanol, and the challenges facing producers as they work to get the crops planted this spring. In these uncertain times, I’m doing all I can to help agriculture producers and industries who drive our rural economic engine.

HEROES Act

The coronavirus has shuttered businesses, upended the agriculture supply chain, and disrupted the lives of families throughout our country. I supported the Heroes Act because it provides much-needed support that I secured for agriculture producers and it will fund critical services for local government.

As I have said for weeks, without a strong testing and tracing program to stop the spread of the virus, we will continue to face setbacks in our efforts to reopen our country until a vaccine is widely available. This bill will provide resources to improve our testing and tracing capabilities.

While I do have concerns with some of the provisions that will never survive negotiations with the Senate, it was important to advance many of the positive aspects included in the bill to address this crisis.

The Heroes Act includes numerous provisions to help address the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis. I’ve included some of them here.

Fighting the Spread of the Coronavirus

  • $75 billion for testing, contact tracing, and other activities necessary to effectively monitor and suppress COVID-19.
  • Makes a number of improvements to the Strategic National Stockpile.

Strengthens Support for Businesses

  • Increases the applicable percentage of qualified wages reimbursed through the employee retention credit from 50% to 80%.
  • Amendments to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP):
    • Extension of the covered period from June 30 to December 31;
    • Extends eligibility to all nonprofits of all sizes and clarifies the eligibility of housing cooperatives;
    • Establishes a minimum maturity on PPP loans of 5 years to enable borrowers to amortize loans over a longer period of time, which lowers monthly payments;
    • Clarifies that PPP loans cannot be calculated on a compound basis, saving borrowers money over the long-term;
    • Modifications to PPP Funds, including
      • A carve out of 25% of the existing funds on the date of enactment to be used specifically for small businesses with 10 or fewer employees to guarantee they are fully able to access PPP assistance;
      • A carve out of 25% of the existing funds on the date of enactment solely for the use of all nonprofits, no matter their size or type but requiring that at least half this amount go to small nonprofits under the 500-employee threshold;
      • Establishes an additional set aside of existing funds of the lesser of 25% or $10 billion specifically for community financial institutions, such as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Minority Development Institutions (MDIs), SBA microlenders, and SBA Certified Development Companies (CDCs); and
      • Mandates that any returned amounts due to the cancellation of a covered loan shall be redistributed through loans to small businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
    • Establishes technical assistance grants for small community financial institutions and small depository institutions and credits with assets of less than $10 billion; and
  • Amendments to PPP Loan Forgiveness:
    • Adds flexibility in the covered period for borrowers by extending the 8-week period to 24 weeks and extends the covered period from June 30 to December 31;
    • Harmonizes the use of proceeds with forgiveness;
    • Mandates forgiveness data collection and reporting;
    • Creates a safe harbor for borrowers who cannot rehire in the prescribed timeframe;
    • Eliminates the 75/25 rule on use of loan proceeds; and
    • Clarifies the hold harmless provision for lenders.
  • Improved Coordination Between PPP and Employee Retention Tax Credit. Clarifies the coordination between the Employee Retention Tax Credit and the PPP loans to ensure borrowers can take advantage of both types of assistance.
  • Taxability of Subsidy for Certain Loan Payments. Ensures the principal and interest loan assistance is not treated as taxable income to small business borrowers.
  • EIDL- Expand Economic Injury Disaster Program Heroes Act would provide more assistance through the Economic Injury Disaster Program by appropriating an additional $10 billion for Emergency EIDL Grants to remain available until expended.

Keeping Hospitals and Healthcare Providers from Closing 

  • Provides $7.6 billion for Community Health Centers to expand the capacity to provide testing, triage, and care for COVID-19; $100 billion for hospitals to reimburse for healthcare expenses and lost revenue; and $3 billion for expanded mental health and substance abuse programs.
  • Provides $150 million for States to create dedicated teams that can quickly deployed to skilled nursing facilities or nursing facilities to protect residents from COVID-19 outbreak, and ensures residents can conduct “tele-visitation” with loved ones while COVID-19 prevents in-person visits.

Prevents Local Governments from Devastating Losses 

  • $500b in funding to assist state governments with the fiscal impacts from the public health emergency.
  • $375b in funding to assist local governments with the fiscal impacts.
  • $20b in funding to assist Tribal Governments. $20b for U.S. territories.
  • The bill includes robust funding for police ($300 million for the Byrne JAG grants and COPS hiring grants.

Families and Seniors

  • Provides for another round of stimulus checks, $1200 per person, including children (up from $500 for children)
  • $7 Billion for childcare providers to serve individuals who are required to work during the public health emergency or to stay afloat during temporary closures and provide families with tuition relief.
  • Expands the Child Care Tax Credit, making it fully refundable for 2020 and increases the amount to $3,000 per child, and $3,600 for a child under age 6.
  • Expanded voting access by early voting and mail in voting during the crisis.
  • Increased mental health resources including a 3 Code for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
  • Provides $309 million in supplemental funding for USDA’s rental assistance programs, including $25 million for rural vouchers, to absorb reductions in tenant rent contributions and to provide rental assistance to unassisted households living in USDA subsidized properties who are struggling to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Support for seniors’ home-delivered meals - $100 million to provide direct services such as home-delivered and prepackaged meals, and supportive services for seniors and disabled individuals, and their caregivers.

Emergency Relief for Farmers and Livestock Producers –

  • Provides emergency assistance to producers who have depopulated livestock and poultry due to processing shut-downs and back-ups resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Establishes supplemental margin coverage for dairies based on the difference between 2019 actual production and Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) production history
  • Provides a premium discount for operations that commit to participating in Dairy Margin Coverage for 2021 – 2023
  • Provides direct support for renewable fuel plants affected by COVID-19
  • Provides $16.5 billion for direct payments to agricultural producers whose commodities were impacted by COVID-19 related market disruptions
  • Expands the Emergency Soil Health Incentive Pilot Program to allow producers to enroll land in a 3-year contract with an option to receive an up-front payment
  • Provides $300 million to support improved animal health surveillance and laboratory capacity

Veterans

  • Increases by 25% the amount being paid to disabled veterans to assist with daily activities including purchase of PPE for veterans and their caregivers or home health aides.
  • Establishes zero cost-sharing (out-of-pocket costs) for COVID-19 treatment under VA health plans,
  • Flexibility for the VA to care for homeless veterans during COVID-19, such as providing transportation, purchasing food, shelter, telecommunication equipment, clothing, blankets, and toiletry items for homeless veterans.
  • Extends deadlines for veterans to file claims and appeals for VA benefits.
  • Allows National Guard and Reserve members to receive mental health care at Vet Centers if deployed for more than 14 days in support of COVID-19.
  • Suspends VA debt collection activities during COVID-19

VA Providers

  • Heroes Pay - VA health care providers and first responders would be eligible to receive premium pay for treating COVID-19 patients.
  • VA doctors and nurses are eligible to receive paid sick leave.

Education - Invests more than $100 billion in funding for childcare providers, school districts, and institutions of higher education, which are facing a surge of unexpected costs and need financial assistance just to keep the doors open.

  • $90 Billion to the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund for grants to States to support elementary and secondary schools and public postsecondary institutions.
  • Nearly $58 billion for K-12 schools to continue delivering instruction, including purchasing educational technology and hotspot devices, planning and implementing summer learning, training and professional development, and maintaining school personnel employment.
  • Nearly $27 billion to support public institutions of higher education and their students.
  • Nearly $4 billion to governors to award funding to school districts and institutions of higher education.

Expanding Broadband Access - Provides a much needed investment in expanding our broadband network to help our student and economy while many work and study from home.

  • $1.5 billion to close the homework gap by providing funding for Wi-Fi hotspots and connected devices for students and library patrons, and $4 billion for emergency home connectivity needs.
  • The bill authorizes $2 billion for a temporary expansion of the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program (RHCP) to partially subsidize their health care providers’ broadband service and increases the broadband subsidy rate from 65 percent to 85 percent.

Chairman’s Corner

Urging FEMA Assistance for Livestock Depopulation, Disposal 

I led a bipartisan group of colleagues in urging the Administration to provide guidance on how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can help farmers depopulate and dispose of livestock following the closure of meatpacking plants due to coronavirus outbreaks and worker safety concerns. Specifically, I requested the Administration allow for expenses related to livestock depopulation and disposal be reimbursed under Category B of FEMA’s Public Assistance program.

Read the letter on livestock depopulation and disposal.

Call for Testing and Tracing for Ag Workers 

I recently sent a letter to House and Senate Leadership urging the prioritization of $250 billion for a robust plan to test and provide contact tracing for frontline healthcare, first responders, and food and agricultural workers. Essential workers are bearing the brunt of the impact of this virus while doing the critical work necessary to keep our nation safe and fed. We must keep these critical workers safe as well.

Read the letter on testing for ag workers, frontline workers, and first responders.

Universal Broadband Act

Reliable broadband is a utility, every bit as necessary as electricity. It’s unacceptable that rural communities have limited, unreliable or worse yet no broadband access. In response to these inequities, I recently introduced the Universal Broadband Act with my friend Rep. Don Young (R-AK), along with a bipartisan group of colleagues. The bill secures adequate funding to support the construction of broadband infrastructure in rural and underserved areas without having to increase the national debt.

To learn more about the bill, you can read the press release on my website.

Why Rural Broadband Matters

I’ve been an advocate for rural broadband for decades. Today, the digital divide is more problematic than ever before. I asked some folks from throughout the Seventh District to share with me what rural broadband means to them:

Tele-Education 

As schools and universities move to online learning to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, students without reliable broadband fall behind. Students across the country are doing their homework in McDonalds parking lots, and teachers are struggling to stay connected to their students. We must equip our educators with the tools needed to ensure every student has the opportunity to learn. Learn more:

Click play to watch video remarks by Hancock Superintendent Paul Carlson

Click play to watch video remarks by Morris Area Schools Spanish Language and Cultural Liaison Amanda Carlson

Telehealth 

Rural Americans know how challenging it can be to seek medical help, especially when the nearest hospital is far away. Telehealth can help increase medical opportunity, ensure better patient care, and bring healthcare to your home. The Universal Broadband Act would increase funding for telehealth programs and help keep rural Minnesotans healthy.

Click play to watch video remarks by the Legacy Assisted Living Administrator Joie Warnes and RN Manager Jodi Hill

National Input on the Universal Broadband Act

Association of Minnesota Counties President and Lake County Commissioner, Rich Sve

“The Association of Minnesota Counties applauds Congressman Peterson’s work on the Universal Broadband Act in order to better address the need for national rural broadband investment. As president of an association representing all of Minnesota’s 87 counties, we understand the disparities in broadband access in our state. The Universal Broadband Act will help to address those disproportionalities. Now more than ever, access to broadband is vital to economic success, healthcare, and education and we appreciate Congressman Peterson’s efforts to make this a priority.”

Power & Communication Contractors Association, Chairman, John Fluharty

“Expanding the contribution base of the USF to include broadband providers is the long-term fix for broadband deployment. PCCA represents the vast majority of construction entities who install, repair and maintain America’s broadband infrastructure, and we applaud Chairman Peterson for introducing this important legislation.”

FEMA Fire Grant Application Period Extended, Cost Share Waived

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf has waived the cost share, position cost limit, supplanting, and minimum budget requirements for Fiscal Year 2019 Staffing for Adequate Fire Emergency and Response (SAFER) Grant applications.

The application period has been extended to May 27, 2020 at 4:00 PM CT.

Find more information about SAFER Grants on the FEMA website.

Vote in the Congressional Art Competition 

Congressional Art Competition entry submitted by a Western Minnesota student

High-school students in Minnesota’s Seventh District have been submitting artwork for the 2020 Congressional Art Competition. I encourage you to vote for your favorite entries on my Facebook page.

Vote for your favorite Congressional Art Competition entries.

The competition is open to all high-school students in 9th through 12th grades, with exceptions for schools that have 7th and 8th grade students on the same campus as the High School.  The overall winner from the 7th District will have their artwork displayed for one year in the U.S. Capitol and be flown to Washington, D.C. for a reception honoring his or her artwork. Two semi-finalists will have their artwork displayed in my district offices.

If your student has not submitted their artwork yet, make sure they do so before the end of the day today, May 18th.

Find out more about the competition and how to apply.

Questionnaire Results 

Schools, healthcare providers, businesses and families rely on broadband services to stay connected through the pandemic. Last week, I asked you some questions about broadband in rural communities. Here’s what you said:

Have you used tele-health services (connecting with a healthcare professional with broadband) to replace an in-person visit?

How do you think rural schools compare to their city counterparts with broadband access?

How much does the level of broadband services in your area help or hurt your community in attracting new businesses?

COVID-19 Updates

Additional information can be found on my website at collinpeterson.house.gov/covid-19-resources

Stay at Home Order

Governor Walz announced the next phase of the state’s coronavirus response. Starting today, retail stores, main street businesses, and other non-critical businesses will be able to reopen with a social distancing plan and operate at 50% capacity. The Governor’s office is preparing further guidance to safely reopen bars, restaurants, barbershops and salons on June 1. I support the move to begin opening up Minnesota, especially rural areas with few or no cases.

For additional information on the Stay at Home Order, visit Stay Safe MN Coming Soon and the Governor’s press release.

Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA)

The Minnesota Hospital Association (MHA) released a statement on the expiration of Minnesota’s stay at home order. In the statement, MHA President and CEO Dr. Rahul Koranne recommends that the governor and state officials work to balance the health and well-being of Minnesotans and our economy during the pandemic.

Read MHA’s statement on the expiration of Minnesota’s stay at home order.

Economic Impact Payments

The Economic Impact Payments (EIP), also referred to as stimulus checks or individual rebates, are a major piece of the CARES Act. Additional information and answers to common questions can be found on the IRS’s Economic Impact Payment Information Center page. So far, approximately 130 million individuals have received payments.

  • Filers: Check on the status of your EIP by visiting the IRS’s Filers: Get My Payment web-portal. Accessing Get My Payment more than one time per day may lead to getting locked out of the portal with no way to get it unlocked.
    • UPDATE: The Get My Payment was recently updated to correct difficulties users had experienced with rural and foreign addresses. It is recommended to check your most recent tax return or consider alternate ways to enter your street address (for example, 123 N Main St vs. 123 North Main St.). You may also verify how your address is formatted with the US Postal Service (USPS) by entering your address in the USPS ZIP Lookup tool.
  • Non-Filers: For Americans that are not required to file taxes, make sure you still receive your payment by visiting Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here

Social Security & SSI Guide – View the guide for Social Security and SSI Recipients.

Incorrect Payment – If you did not receive the full amount to which you believe you are entitled, you will be able to claim the additional amount when you file your 2020 tax return.  This is particularly important for those who may be entitled to the additional $500 per qualifying child dependent payments.

Scams – The IRS urges you to beware of schemes offering you a faster path to your Economic Impact Payment and other phishing schemes. Don’t engage potential scammers online or on the phone. Learn more about EIP related scams.

Livestock Processing/Producer Grants & Other Ag Programs 

Minnesota meat, poultry, egg, and milk processors and Minnesota livestock producers in operation before March 1, 2020 are eligible to apply for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) AGRI Rapid Response Mini-Grant for Livestock Processing. This program is meant to increase slaughter, processing, and storage capacity for livestock producers until markets return or new markets are developed.

Find out more about the Livestock Mini-Grants from MDA.

All of MDA’s various grant and loan programs can be found here.

Business & Employee Resources

There are many questions going around as businesses start reopening and Minnesotans return to work. The MN Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has answered many of them at https://mn.gov/deed/newscenter/covid/safework/business/.

Here are a few resources for businesses affected by COVID-19.

Newsstand

National EMS Week

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) provided by Paramedics and EMTs are being recognized across the nation this week. EMS practitioners are on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, and are often the first ones to deal with patients struggling from virus on top of other 9-1-1 health emergencies.

Mental Health Month 

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is promoting Mental Health Month. It is important that we education and encourage folks to take mental health seriously. AFSP has tools, resources, guides, and videos to help encourage conversations around mental health.

View the AFSP resources at afsp.org/realconvo.