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Debbie's Blog

Dingell Update: 08.14.2023

Dear Friend,

Somehow, I don’t feel the lazy hazy days of summer. There is much going on, many things to worry about, and challenges to address. The weather this last week has been Michigan perfect save for the thunderstorms and a tornado… But I’ve spent lots of time outside crisscrossing the district, participating in numerous meetings, tours, learning, brainstorming, researching, strategizing, and appreciating all that Michigan has to offer. 
Went to two parades this week in Manchester and Dexter and people were nice, warm, and welcoming. Saturday and Sunday also brought the Chelsea Community Picnic at the Library, Dexter Daze, Manchester County Fair, Saline Summerfest, the Flat Rock Crusin, car shows from one end of the district to the other, fishing tournaments, Ypsi Senior Corn Roast, Summer Garden Parties, Rubber Duck Races, UAW picnics and golf outings, Thunder Over Michigan at Willow Run,  STEM robotics showcase, softball games, pie contests, concerts, and so much more. I left the house early both days and got home late, but talked to a lot of people, wandered around to see, shop, and hear what was on people’s minds, satisfied my sweet tooth and found comfort in being home, both around people and with people. I am a Michigan car girl, and these weekends just matter so much to me.
I also Introduced legislation during proforma on Friday and have been working on it during the break. Here are highlights of the week.

World War II Legacy Memorial Dedication

It was an honor to be included in the dedication of the Michigan World War II Legacy Memorial. It’s important to our state and to our whole country to remember the legacy and stories of those who served in World War II.
My late husband John was one of those who served. His story is great, he was was serving as a Page on the House floor when, in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked a joint session of Congress to declare war on Japan following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and delivered his iconic “date which will live in infamy” speech. He was told not to record the president’s speech, but he left the recorder on anyway. It was Speaker John Boehner who shared the history of how we have the recording of that speech, and it was all because John kept a tape recorder on that he was told to turn off. Those were far different days, when he turned 18, he joined the Army to fight in the war and he was the last World War II veteran to serve in Congress.
The Rosies also joined us for the dedication. They opened the doors wider for all women, but they were also the backbone of the arsenal of democracy. They inspire me every day. 
As those who served are growing older, and many of them are no longer with us, it’s important we don’t lose their stories and their perspectives and don’t lose sight of all they did to defend freedom across the world. This memorial honors their sacrifice and serves as an ever-present reminder of that legacy and the value of service as well as what our flag stands for and how we can never take our democracy or freedoms for granted.

Call for Action on “Junk Fees”

Last Monday, I held a press conference with my colleague Rep. Rashida Tlaib at Western Wayne Family Health Center in Inkster to highlight the work we’re doing to reduce costs for working families by eliminating junk fees, reducing the cost of living on everything from clean energy to prescription drugs.
Junk fees are hidden, or surprise charges often added right at the end of transactions -- and they cost many American families hundreds of dollars a year. Economy-wide, these hidden and predatory fees add up to tens of billions of dollars each year. The Biden Administration and Democrats in Congress recognize that the government has a duty to protect consumers from these predatory fees, which a majority of Americans have experienced and view as a problem. According to a study done by Consumer Reports, at least 85% of Americans have experienced a hidden or unexpected fee for a service in the previous two years, and 96% found them annoying. They should! 
Where do you find them? Banking fees, including overdraft, credit card, and ATM fees, early termination fees for cable TV, internet, and mobile phone providers, excessive online ticket fees often exceeding 20% of the ticket's face value, rental property application fees, deceptive car dealership fees, family seating fees charging parents extra to sit next to their children during flights, surprise resort and destination fees, and medical and hospital fees and surprise medical billing that often push consumers into unfair medical debt are some examples of the junk fees we need to do away with.

The Automotive Supplier Community

We frequently talk about the OEM’s when discussing keeping our stature strong for the automotive industry, but too often the supplier community is forgotten and not included in public policy discussions. Yet, they very much are part of the fabric of our communities with jobs and support of the places they operate in. I held a roundtable with a number of them this week to hear their concerns, issues they are worried about,  and how we can help support them.
The auto industry is at an inflection point - we’re at a critical time to decide where, how, and by whom electric vehicles are built. I’m excited about our opportunity to herald a new era of mobility right here in Michigan and sustain our role as a global leader in auto innovation and manufacturing, and I will not cede our global leadership on this to any other nation or quite frankly state.
We’ve already taken a critical step forward by setting new standards that will help ensure our national EV charging network is user-friendly, reliable, and accessible to all Americans The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included historic investments of $7.5 billion for EV charging infrastructure across the country, and more than $7 billion for the critical minerals supply chains necessary for batteries, components, materials, and recycling.
And we need to bring down the cost of EVs to make sure this isn’t just a car for the few who can afford it, but for everyone. That’s why we included a series of tax credits—including the Clean Vehicle Tax Credit—in the Inflation Reduction Act and expanded existing programs, specifically the ATVM loan program and the Domestic Manufacturing Conversion Grants program to retool factories. The Advanced Manufacturing Production Credit in the IRA will also make tax credits available to manufacturers for production of electrode active materials, battery cells, battery modules, and applicable critical minerals, savings that can then be passed along to the consumer. With this legislation, we are investing in good-paying American jobs, reducing our dependency on foreign manufacturing, and strengthening our economic, national, and environmental security, while setting the foundation for long-term growth.
We must continue to invest in research and development to pursue the innovations that are driving the future of this industry. I recently re-introduced my Vehicle Innovation Act that reauthorizes DOE to work with manufacturers and suppliers to research, develop, and deploy advanced vehicle technologies that improve energy efficiency. I also teamed up with Rep. Stevens on the Shifting Forward Vehicle Technologies Research and Development Act. This legislation makes significant investments in transformational mobility technologies R&D to reduce our transportation carbon footprint and ensure America competes, while increasing domestic production and decreasing the cost of vehicles, advanced batteries, and hydrogen fuel cell manufacturing.
The American auto industry has made major advancements in fuel efficiency technologies in the last decade, and we must work together to ensure we continue to lead the world in vehicle innovation as we make the critical shift toward a clean economy. We must also ensure we continue to invest in our workforce here in Michigan. As you all know, our auto industry here creates thousands of jobs across the country. I want to bring back those jobs that have been sent overseas and keep them here by investing in American workers and supply chains.
The supplier community is a very important part of all of this and this dialogue, their perspectives, worries, concerns, and flags for realities are important. These are issues that will define Michigan and the nation’s future.

Technology and Innovation in Healthcare

Spoke to the XR Association and toured Elm Park Labs to speak about how technology can help find answers and advance us in healthcare. Elm Park labs is, by the way, a great woman-owned small business, two things that I love.
I will be honest; I don’t yet know all the ins and outs of Extended Reality technology and the full scope of how this technology will fit into the health care-tech landscape. But what I do know, and care deeply about, is keeping our country at the forefront of cutting-edge medical research and technology, and advancing solutions to make quality health care more accessible and affordable for all Americans.
I understand that XR technology has the potential to expand options for remote and virtual care, which is something that I’m working on in Congress. We saw telehealth services widely and successfully adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic, now we must ensure those services are here to stay. We passed my Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act as a part of the last government funding bill to extend critical telehealth coverage through December 31, 2024, and I will continue working to make this coverage permanent. 
For many people, including seniors, people with disabilities, and people who live in very rural areas, traveling to a doctor’s office can be a prohibitive barrier to receiving the care they need, and we cannot allow people who have come to rely on telehealth to have that resource taken from them. In fact, we need to be expanding for remote care.
So I look forward to keep learning and for continuing this I important dialogue and figuring out how we best incorporate emerging technologies safely to reduce costs for patients and expand access to care

EPA Annual Brownfields Conference

I was proud to welcome and help open EPA’s annual Brownfields Conference, which is being held in Detroit this year. It was an honor to welcome many friends from EPA including Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe and Region 5 Director Debra Shore. Michigan is a perfect place for this conference as we are an industrial and manufacturing state with many sites that need to be cleaned up as plants move, technology advances, and we look to the future. I am particularly proud of the work that has been done in the Downriver community and that is what I spoke about in my welcoming remarks.
The Downriver Community Conference, an organization made up of cities and townships located there is managing one of the most successful Brownfield programs in the country and is a model the rest of the country should be looking at, as evidenced by the consistent strong federal funding they receive and the success of their many projects.
The DCC has received and administered over $19 million in Brownfield funding since its creation and assisted in more than 200 sites accounting for over $600 million total investment in the region. Cleaning up, restoring, and redeveloping Brownfield sites stimulates economic investment and jobs in our communities and improves quality of life for residents, and we have so many success stories here we are proud of. 
The site of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge was the former Chrysler Chemical plant. The Wildlife Refuge is a critical service to the Downriver community and a place for all to appreciate the outdoors. This refuge was John’s dream, and his footprints are all over.
His vision is now a reality and a place to gather, learn and protect the wildlife and natural resources that make our region unique. The Refuge hosts an educational center which I encourage you to visit. We must always fight to protect it.
Ventower is another local success story. DCC used $2 million in funding to cap a former industrial landfill with slag and coal tar for safe reuse. Now that land is the site of Ventower, which develops wind turbines and other materials and products that support our clean energy transition and strengthen our manufacturing economy.
And of course, the McLouth Steel Site, which has undergone tremendous cleanup. We are still working hard to ensure the protection of residents first and foremost, and to eventually repurpose and redevelop that site safely.
These are just a few of the countless projects that DCC has facilitated to make Downriver more beautiful, more vibrant, and a more sustainable place to live, work, visit, and raise a family. We must keep in mind our region’s industrial heritage and ensure the transition to a new cleaner economy is inclusive and does not leave anyone behind. The Brownfields program is at the center of that work, and we will continue to work together at every level, from individuals to local, state, and federal government, to ensure these investments continue to strengthen our communities. 
To continue this good work into the future, last Congress, along the Biden Administration, we secured the single-largest investment in U.S. brownfields infrastructure ever—the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests more than $1.5 billion through EPA’s highly successful Brownfields Program and funds over 350 programs to support its work. This, along with improvements under the Inflation Reduction Act to expand renewable energy and reduce costs, we strengthened the Brownfields program for generations. I am proud to have helped advance this in Congress.

Tour of the EPA R/V Lake Guardian Ship

I joined Region 5 Director Debra Shore and EGLE Director Phil Roos for a tour of the R/V Lake Guardian, which assists the mission for monitoring and reporting on the status and trends of the Great Lakes ecosystem. GLNPO has mandates to help restore and protect the health of the Great Lakes as required under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Sampling from aboard the R/V Lake Guardian, operating on all five Great Lakes, is used to monitor the water quality and health of the lakes. The R/V Lake Guardian also provides educational opportunities around the Great Lakes basin. It was a good opportunity to learn and ask many questions.

Michigan Broadcasters Association

Spent much of the day on Wednesday with the Michigan Broadcasters and was honored to receive the Community Broadcaster Award and it meant much to me to be recognized. The free press is one of the core institutions that keeps our democracy alive. The local broadcaster’s work is vital – from keeping people updated on the local news they depend on within their communities, helping keep people safe in times of emergency, lifting their spirits by sharing the good news we could all use a little bit more of these days, to fighting for truth and transparency and holding those in power accountable.
One of the topics we discussed was civility and the role of broadcasting. We can’t overstate the need for civility in our discourse, especially in our politics, in state capitals across the country, and especially in Washington. We can get a lot more done when we take the time to understand each other, and actually respect each other and listen to different perspectives.
Broadcasters play a critical role in sharing those perspectives, and keeping us from getting stuck in echo chambers, only hearing from those with whom we agree. Our country was founded on and continues to benefit from vigorous debate – but honest and true debate requires mutual respect and understanding. Their work contributes to debate, transparency, and ensuring citizens have the facts they need to understand the world around them and inform their decisions. We should always recognize the value of truth and facts; keeping local broadcasting strong matters.

TODAY: PACT Act Extended Deadline

On August 10, 2022, nearly a year ago, President Biden signed the PACT Act into law. The PACT Act is the most significant expansion of benefits and services for toxic exposed veterans and survivors in over thirty years.
On Thursday, the VA announced that Veterans and survivors who apply (or submit their intent to file) for PACT Act benefits by 11:59PMET on Monday, August 14, 2023 will be eligible to have their benefits backdated to August 10, 2022 – the day that President Biden signed the PACT Act into law. This is an extension from the original deadline of August 9, 2023.
If you receive an error message from the VA in response to your claim, please know that the time stamp from when you filed your claim will be noted on application materials. The VA will continue to collect intent to file submissions despite the outgoing error messages.
Since becoming a member of Congress, I have met with veterans throughout my district and listened to their stories. I’ve seen men and women who fought in horrific battles and shown immense courage and bravery be reduced to tears out of desperation, pain, and hopelessness. We couldn't wait another second to deliver on our promise to care for these veterans when they return home. For more information or to see your qualifications for PACT Act benefits, click here.

Congress in Your Community

We have started our summer Congress in Your Community events and have held several already. We have three announced and one coming up this week. These events are an August tradition for me and serve as public office hours for us to have conversations, ask questions, share thoughts and concerns, and for you to fill me in on what’s going on in your community. 
We want our office to be as open and accessible as possible to everyone in the sixth district. The goal of Congress in your Community is to give residents an opportunity to discuss issues and concerns with me and my staff and take advantage of the services our office provides conveniently in your own backyard.

Stop by one of the following Congress in Your Community dates: 

1.    Thursday August 17th from 2:30-3:30 PM, Platt Rd & Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti
2.    Monday August 21st from 4:30 – 5:30 PM, 4th Street Square, 414 Main St, Belleville

Additional dates, times, and locations will be announced throughout the month. What you think matters to me. Let me know what’s on your mind by visiting one of these events this month. Hoping our paths cross soon. 

Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act

Friday, I along with Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act, to reauthorize and strengthen the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which provides grants to states and tribal governments to incentivize private landowners to voluntarily open their lands for public use while upholding private property rights. A lack of access to land is a common barrier to participation in outdoor recreational activities such as hunting, angling, and wildlife viewing. The VPA-HIP seeks to address this challenge by expanding public access to land for recreation purposes. It would also stimulate local economies by supporting jobs in the outdoor recreation economy, specifically in our rural communities. Funding from this program will also be utilized to provide assistance to landowners for wildlife habitat improvement and enhancement programs. 
A big part of Michigan’s culture and heritage has always included outdoor recreation like fishing and hunting, and continuing to expand access to land for public use is important to continuing these rich traditions. The Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act will expand outdoor recreation opportunities nationwide, improve access to the outdoors for all Americans, and bolster critical conservation efforts. I look forward to working with my bipartisan co-lead to advance this bill through the Farm Bill process.

Photos of the Week

There is more, a lot more. Met with veterans in several different ways from individual meetings to VFW’s and at both the Ann Arbor and Detroit VA. Talked to several law enforcement officers, stopped by coffees with cops, participated in community conversations on a number of serious issues including sewers, public safety, education, and community centers. Listened to seniors, talked about many issues, was in union halls, sustainable energy workshops and fairs, met with a number of people worried and addressing domestic violence after the senseless death of a woman with a protection order, met with representatives of Chambers of Commerce, Huron Valley ambulance on EMS services, toured the National Science Foundation, and the list goes on.
There are many challenges, but challenges are also opportunities. I am really trying to listen and learn this August and work with all my communities in a strong fashion to bring people of diverse background and perspectives together to work on the issues we all care about. And yes, I do have some fun. I will always continue to say Michigan is the place to live in this country, there is nothing we cannot accomplish together. Hope I see you at something this week and please make sure I know of anything you think I should be present at.

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