Rep. Peterson's Newsletter 8/3/2018

Aug 6, 2018 Issues: Economy and Jobs, Education, Health, Veterans

Roseau County

Dear Friends,

This week, I heard from folks around the district about the local and national issues that have been on their minds. Disaster assessments continue in southwest Minnesota as communities plan to address damage caused by extreme weather in June and July. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) officials have been surveying the affected communities to determine what assistance is necessary to recover. I continue to hear from farmers about their concerns with trade. The trade war has left many producers wondering how the U.S. will compensate for the value that is lost from retaliatory tariffs. Farmers will benefit from a timely passage of the 2018 Farm Bill that will reauthorize programs that protect farmers from taking any more unexpected hits. I look forward to working with legislators in the Farm Bill Conference Committee to work out differences and pass this important legislation.


Congressman Collin C. Peterson
Minnesota 7th District

Medicare Cost Plan Transition

During the past month, several of you contacted my office to express concern about changes to your Medicare coverage in 2019. As you may know, Medicare Cost Plans are scheduled to sunset in 2019 in a multi-year transition towards a Medicare Advantage market. With nearly 370,000 Cost Plan beneficiaries, Minnesota will be disproportionately impacted by the shift.

Cost Plans will sunset as a result of the Medicare Modernization Act, which was signed into law in 2003. In addition to authorizing Medicare Part D, the legislation established what is commonly referred to as the “2-plan test” which causes Cost Plans to sunset in counties where at least two insurers offer Medicare Advantage plans. The intent of this provision was designed to move Medicare toward a payment model that pays a healthcare provider a fixed rate in a fixed period of time for each enrollee assigned to them, regardless of whether the enrollee seeks care. This type arrangement is broadly supported by insurers and providers across the country.

I recently introduced the Protect Medicare for Seniors Act of 2018 with Congressman Walz to allow Cost Plan beneficiaries to remain on their plans for another two years. This legislation will give Minnesotans who currently enjoy the benefits and flexibility of Cost Plans more time to select comparable plans which match their healthcare needs. If you are unsure whether you have a Cost Plan or whether your county will be affected, contact your health insurance provider to find out. The Minnesota Board on Aging has also released an informational video to explain which steps you can take to ensure that you have coverage in 2019.

I will continue to monitor the transition closely and work to ensure that trusted, high-quality Medicare options remain available throughout greater Minnesota.

*Cost plans may sunset in blue counties in 2019.

Disaster Assessment Meetings

I am continuing to monitor the Preliminary Disaster Assessment of flood damage in the district. Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) held meetings throughout southwestern Minnesota to gather information about the damage, and to explain the Assessment to those affected by the storms that occurred between June 15th and July 11th. The storms caused millions of dollars in damage across many parts of the state. It is important that the disaster assessments are completed quickly so that affected communities receive the assistance they need to repair.

60 Years of Agricultural Research

My staff joined researchers from the North Central Soil Conservation Research Laboratory in Morris as they celebrated their organization’s 60th anniversary. Members of the research team showcased the projects and partnerships that are promoting innovation in agriculture. The lab is supported by the Barnes-Aastad Soil and Water Conservation Research Association and is an asset to the district. The studies they conduct provide research that benefits a wide variety of individuals and organizations.

Minnesota Small Business Association

(Left to right) Regional SBA Director Robert Scott, Jacki Anderson, Minnesota SBA Director Nancy Libersky and Deputy Director Brian McDonald

On Tuesday, my staff aide Jacki Anderson met with visiting Great Lakes Regional SBA Director Robert Scott and Minnesota SBA leadership. They discussed lending needs in Minnesota, opportunities to increase SBA lending in rural areas, and new ideas that could provide additional resources and support for entrepreneurs. Opportunities to share about our district and discuss new ideas with agency leaders provide an important connection to agencies like SBA who are continuously evolving to meet business lending needs. 

Congressional Roundtable Discussion

Meg Louwagie of my staff attended the Congressional Roundtable on the impact of changes to the U.S. Refugee Admissions program. The admission ceiling for refugees was changed from 110,000 in 2017 to 45,000 in 2018. This change, combined with the Administration’s travel bans on certain countries, reduced the number of refugees entering Minnesota to a historically low number from 1,660 in 2017 to 611 in 2018. These updates provide important information about the effect Federal policy changes are having on our state.

Lower Sioux Head Start

(Left) Program Director Vanessa Goodthunder

On Monday, my staff aide attended the grand opening of the Lower Sioux Early Head Start & Head Start Program. The school is the first Dakota language school in the state of Minnesota and the only Early Head Start start-up in the U.S. this year. The thoughtful work of the school’s Director Vanessa Goodthunder can be seen all over including in a new book written in the Dakota language for students. With only five first-language Dakota speakers they will help raise the next generation of Dakota language speakers.

Farmers Union Meetings in the 7th

The Minnesota Farmer’s Union hosted several meetings in the seventh district this week. Farmer's Union Vice President, Bryan Klabunde gave a profile of the different industries that are part of the Farmers Union Organization. Thom Petersen, the Government Relations Director updated folks on what happened during the last Minnesota Legislative Session. These meetings in Polk, Norman, Mahnomen, Roseau and Marshall Counties keep our farm families updated on the issues that are important to their communities.

Forever GI Bill Expands VA Educational Benefits

Effective August 1, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs implemented 15 more provisions of the Harry W. Colmery Educational Assistance Act of 2017, also known as the Forever GI Bill.

These provisions will have an immediate and positive impact on Veterans and their families using VA benefits to pursue their educational goals. Some of the provisions that began August 1 include:

  • Recipients of a Purple Heart awarded on or after Sept. 11, 2001, are now eligible for full Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits for up to 36 months, if not already entitled.
  • Military and Veteran families who have lost a family member can now reallocate transferred Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
  • Additional Guard and Reserve service now counts toward Post-9/11 GI Bill eligibility.
  • Post-9/11 GI Bill students may now receive monthly housing allowance for any days they are not on active duty, rather than having to wait until the next month; and
  • Expansion of the Yellow Ribbon Program, which makes additional funds available for GI Bill students, now covers more students.

More provisions are scheduled related to science, technology, engineering and math benefit extensions; increased benefit levels; a pilot program for high-technology training geared toward “upskilling” Veterans to enter the workforce quickly; and another expansion of the Yellow Ribbon Program, which will be implemented by Aug. 1, 2022.

For more information, visit the Forever GI Bill – Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act page.

Life Saving Skills Resources

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently introduced a series of research-based Life Saving Skills resources. These resources feature eight graphics and customizable social media content covering simple, low and no-cost actions that individuals and communities may take to improve their household safety, financial, and emergency preparedness. The following links contain information that will help you in the event of a gas leak, power outage and many other household emergencies.



This Week in American History

Amos Owen in 1978

On August 4, 1916, Amos Owen was born on Sisseton Reservation in South Dakota. He moved to the Prairie Island Indian Reservation at age sixteen and would later become a prominent spiritual leader, tribal chairman, and pipe carrier of the Dakota, working to broker understandings between Indian and non-Indian peoples. He died June 4, 1990.

What’s the Story?

Wild rice is the official state grain of Minnesota. Wild rice typically grows in shallow water from 6 inches to 3 feet deep, making Minnesota’s lakes and streams an ideal place to grow. For many years, nearly all the wild rice produced in the world came from Minnesota. While wild rice can be planted as a farm crop, a significant portion of Minnesota’s wild rice grows naturally. Much of Minnesota’s wild rice is still harvested in the traditional Anishinaabe way, by hand from canoes. Wild rice is one of only two cereal grains that are native to North America, and it has provided a plentiful source of protein for humans and wildlife for years. The ornate tin of Gibbs Wild Rice pictured above is displayed in my Washington, D.C. office.

Keya Stola