Rep. Peterson's Newsletter and Questionnaire 6/15/2020
Preparing for the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on COVID-19 response
I participated in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on the VA’s response to COVID-19. Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Executive in Charge Dr. Richard Stone testified to the committee about how they have been able to serve the 9 million veterans enrolled in the VHA. It is important that Congress evaluates the VA’s work so we can ensure veterans are getting a high standard of health care during the pandemic, and we can prepare for future public health crises.
I joined a bipartisan letter urging President Trump to deny blanket requests for waivers from the Renewable Fuel Standard’s federal biofuel blending requirements. These waivers put additional pressure on the biofuels industry, which has already been hit hard by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce presented me with the Jefferson-Hamilton Award for Bipartisanship. These are difficult times for people across the country, and especially for small businesses and rural communities and I believe that unless people in both parties are willing to work together and compromise, it’s impossible to enact meaningful legislation in our country today.
I led members of the House Agriculture Committee in a letter to Ag Secretary Perdue to share the concerns with the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) that we’ve heard from folks in our districts. Many of these concerns are about arbitrary exclusions or deadlines that are keeping producers from getting their fair share of assistance. If you have any concerns about CFAP, or any other issue, feel free to share them by contacting my office through my website or by calling 202-225-2165.
Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Bipartisanship Award
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce named me one of the top bipartisan champions for business in the U.S. House as part of their First Annual Governing with Distinction Ceremony. I received the Jefferson-Hamilton Award for Bipartisanship, which recognizes members of Congress who demonstrate a willingness to work across the aisle in support of common objectives.
I’m grateful for this recognition and will continue to be a voice of reason in Washington to represent my constituents and use my experience to move common sense ideas forward.
Calling on USDA to address CFAP concerns
Farmers in Western Minnesota have been contacting my office to share their concerns with the way USDA is implementing parts of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). I led members of the House Agriculture Committee in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to share concerns we’ve been hearing from producers in our districts.
These concerns include the exclusion of commodities under contract, arbitrary deadlines for which livestock sales are covered, and undervaluing certain crops. Some of these provisions arbitrarily pick winners and losers, keep some affected producers from getting their fair share, or leave them out completely. I would like to see USDA and the Administration work more closely with House and Senate leadership to make sure these programs are done correctly so we don’t continue to have these issue come up in the future.
Dicamba Use Allowed for This Year’s Crop
A recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision vacated the registrations for three Dicamba products commonly used in agriculture. This created confusion for farmers in Minnesota that have already purchased the products for use on crops that are in the ground. I sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler urging the Agency to use any available flexibilities to allow the use of existing stocks of dicamba products already purchased for the 2020 crop year.
Following my letter, EPA announced it will allow producers to use existing stocks of the Dicamba products for a short time. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture also issued updated guidance allowing farmers to use the products in compliance with all labels and timing restrictions in place in the state.
Supporting biofuels through the Renewal Fuel Standard
I joined a bipartisan letter to President Trump asking him to deny any blanket requests for waivers from federal biofuel blending requirements. These waivers directly undermine the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and only stand to put more pressure on the ethanol and biofuel industries, which support over 300,000 good paying American jobs. The coronavirus pandemic has only deepened the challenges for our ag industries. We need to make sure our rural economies are in the best possible position to recover from this crisis and any move to weaken the RFS would only put us further behind.
Assessing VA Response to COVID-19
VHA Executive in Charge, Dr. Richard Stone
I participated in the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Full Committee Hearing: “Assessing VA's Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic: 90 Days Later.” This was a hybrid hearing with both virtual and in-person elements. The main witness was Dr. Richard Stone, Executive in Charge for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) at the Department of Veterans Affairs. VHA is the largest health care system in America, serving approximately 9 million enrolled veterans each year, so it was very important that we hear how it dealt with COVID-19. The hearing covered topics such as the VA’s COVID-19 testing and contact tracing capabilities, supply chain and inventory management of personal protective equipment (PPE), and guidance related to self-quarantine for veterans and employees.
Storms Dominate Weather in NW Minnesota
Fallen tree from severe weather
What was a relatively dry spring in Northwestern Minnesota turned into a wet June. Severe weather moved in, dropping several inches to a foot of rain, bringing high winds, and causing tornado warnings. About 900 Red Lake Cooperative Electric customers were without power, affecting an area from Crookston to Thief River Falls. In Kittson County, many rural roads were washed out by cross country flooding.
Stepping Up in the 7th
Food donations ready for distribution
The Stevens County Area Food Drop held a curbside distribution on Tuesday, June 9 at the National Guard Armory in Morris. Because of the current pandemic, changes were made in how the food was delivered to participants. For the past few weeks, volunteers collected paper grocery bags. This week, they filled those bags with food delivered to Morris from the North Country Food Bank. On the day of the event, new health and safety guidelines required contactless delivery, so volunteers placed the donation in vehicles. A total of over 60 volunteers worked for two days to bag and deliver food to 300 participants. There are no exceptions to who can get food during the Food Drop distribution. If you eat, you’re eligible.
There will be two more distributions in Morris over the summer, on July 14 and August 4. Bremer Bank of Morris is collecting monetary donations for the Summer Food Drops.
Volunteers passing out food
Views from the 7th
Rare sighting of a moose. Photo taken by my staff aide LeRoy Stumpf on his farm.
Last week, I asked you about the forceful dispersal of peaceful protesters in D.C. and the removal of clergy from places of worship. Here’s what you said:
The violent dispersal of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. has been rebuked by religious and military leaders. Do you think it is appropriate to prohibit the peaceful assembly of Americans?
Similarly, in Washington, members of the clergy were forcibly removed from church grounds by the police to make way for political activity. Do you think clergy should be protected on church grounds from being removed without cause?
The State of Minnesota has launched a new website staysafe.mn.gov for all guidance created by state agencies to help businesses, organizations, and individuals stay safe while Minnesota continues to open.
Other updates can be found at the State of Minnesota’s COVID-19 dashboard at mn.gov/covid19. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is providing additional updates and Material and Resources for COVID-19 response. To get tested, talk to a doctor, local clinic, or Find Testing Locations near you.
Additional information can be found on my website at collinpeterson.house.gov/covid-19-resources.
Guidance for Youth and Adult Sports
The current phase of Governor Walz’s Stay Safe plan allows for low-risk sports games and competitions and increases outdoor group sizes to 25 people. Different sports carry different risks of COVID-19, depending on people’s proximity, shared equipment, and other factors guided by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic organizations, NCAA, and other stakeholders.
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, which has recently been updated.
You can also call the IRS EIP phone number at 1-800-919-9835 to find information to frequently asked questions and have the option to speak with a representative.
- 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.
- Non-Filers: For Americans that are not required to file taxes, make sure you still receive your payment by using Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here by October 15.
- Social Security & SSI Guide – View the guide for Social Security and SSI Recipients.
- 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.
EIP Prepaid Debit Card
Nearly four million people are being sent their Economic Impact Payment by prepaid debit card, instead of paper check. These cards will arrive in a plain envelope from Money Network Cardholder Services. The Visa name will appear on the front of the card. The name of the issuing bank, MetaBank, appears on the back. Information included with the card will explain that the card is an EIP Card. Learn more at www.eipcard.com.
If your card is discarded or destroyed, call EIP Card Customer Service at 1-800-240-8100 (TTY:1-800-241-9100) immediately and select the “Lost/Stolen” option. Your card will be deactivated to prevent anyone from using it and a new replacement card will be ordered.
Parts of Minnesota Experiencing Moderate Drought
Parts of Western Minnesota have moved into D1 or Moderate Drought status according to the United States Drought Monitor. The drought monitor is updated every Thursday, and I recommend that following it closely.
2020 Census Update
By now you have received several invitations to fill out your census information. If you haven’t responded yet, a Census Worker will soon be visiting you. They will have a valid ID badge with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date. If you are still concerned, you can call 1-800-865-6384 to verify the person is an employee of the U.S. Census. U.S. Census data is kept confidential for 72 years with only the U.S. Census Bureau able to access the data.
The Census determines how federal funds, totaling billions of dollars, are allocated to states and local communities. It also determines how many seats each state gets in Congress, and Minnesota came close to losing a congressional seat in 2010. The aggregated data and statistics are also used lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and others to provide better provide everyday services, products, and support the community. Let’s make sure each of us are counted for Minnesota.
Vote in the Congressional Art Competition
There are 10 finalists for the 2020 Congressional Art Competition’s People’s Choice Award in Minnesota’s 7th District. Vote for your favorite to help select the winner.