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Debbie's Blog

Dingell Update: 09.12.2023

Dear friend,

An additional week of hot weather after Labor Day did help make it feel like summer wasn’t quite over, but the House returned to work this week with a very full agenda, all schools are back in session and fall football- professional, college, and high school - is in full throttle. I am cheering loudly for a great past week with the Lions and University of Michigan wins… and a reminder that hope does spring eternal. I set out for the August recess to visit every one of the 48 cities and townships in my district these last few weeks, and to do townhalls, round tables, be accessible, listen, hear, organize, and strategize. I accomplished that and will do a separate note summarizing August.

But on a more serious note, this week is a complicated one for Southeast Michigan. The Automotive World Congress and the 2023 North America Detroit Auto Show are scheduled to kick-off midweek, but are overshadowed by the midnight deadline of September 14th, when the UAW contracts with GM, Ford, and Stellantis are scheduled to expire. Of course, we love the world to visit our region and witness how we continue to lead in innovation, technology, and mobility, but there is so much more at stake this year. 

As we watch these negotiations and the annual traditions of our auto shows, we are simultaneously dealing with legislation to be considered by the full House, the Preserving Choice in Vehicle Purchases Act. This bill would amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing waivers that would directly or indirectly limit the sale or use of vehicles with internal combustion engines. It also directs the Administrator to rescind waivers that have already been granted. This legislation targets a decade’s worth of clean vehicle standards and puts existing waivers dating back to 2013 in limbo, creating extreme uncertainty in the U.S. automobile market and jeopardizing ongoing innovation in the clean transportation sector. It has been scheduled by Republicans deliberately at the time the contract expires.  Most of us are trying to avert a government shutdown, pass the FAA Reauthorization and Agricultural bills expiring in three weeks, and handle the politics of impeachment and a rise in COVID cases- to name a few. These are serious times.

So, we are back. That promise of “see you in September” to my colleagues is here, and I quite frankly don’t know what these next few weeks will bring, but they have the potential to have a very serious impact on all of us. 

Here are some highlights of last week and observations on critical issues.

Rep. Jaime Churches’ Bridge Fund Announcement

Last week, I joined Rep. Jaime Churches to announce and celebrate the $20 million secured for upgrades to the Grosse Ile Free Bridge, thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Stronger infrastructure means stronger communities and it’s great to see federal dollars at work in Michigan. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $563 million for bridge replacement and repairs in Michigan over the next five years and to date, approximately $128.4 million has been allocated to Michigan for infrastructure resilience in 2022 and 2023.
You all know how the closures of the Grosse Ile Bridge have impacted the lives of many residents and commuters and underscored how urgent this infrastructure need is. Now we have the necessary resources to strengthen our bridges and roads and keep our communities safe and on the move. Strengthening our bridges makes our residents safer, creates jobs, grows the local economy, improves commute times, and connects communities. I’ll continue to stay close with Rep. Churches, Sen. Camilleri, Commissioner Palamara, Supervisor Budny, and all our state and local officials to deliver federal funds to important infrastructure needs.
U.S. Travel Association's Travel Works Event
Last Tuesday, I joined the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Works Event in Detroit. The Travel Action Network advocates in various ways to strengthen America’s travel industry. Michigan is home to a wide range of beautiful natural resources and lively cities. It’s important that we continue to spread the pure Michigan spirit by bringing in tourists and travelers from across the country and world. Michigan has so much to share, it’s our job to make sure people have the opportunity to experience all that our state has to offer, which will strengthen our economy by increasing traffic for many business owners throughout the state.
Detroit Chamber Event with Rep. John James
Last Thursday, I joined Rep. John James at a Detroit Chamber event in expressing concern and frustration with the potential upcoming government shutdown. A shutdown is the wrong way to govern, period. It’s inefficient, it’s ineffective, and it’s going to hurt working Americans. Every government shutdown hurts working families, our economy, our national security and public safety, and it’s a failure to do the jobs we were elected to do. It’s wrong for Republicans to attempt to use the threat of shutdown in an attempt to further their own political agenda.
We’re in the middle of one of the biggest transitions in mobility we’ve seen since the automobile was invented and we have to make sure that we’ve got the foundation to support our workers and domestic supply chain. We cannot leave Americans, especially Michiganders, out to dry. I’ll continue covering this topic and keep you updated as things evolve here in DC.
Western Washtenaw Regional Advisory Group Meeting on Housing and Homelessness
Joined Western Washtenaw Regional Advisory Group Meeting last Thursday to discuss ways to address homelessness in Washtenaw County. Washtenaw Housing Alliance’s Executive Director, Amanda Carlisle, presented helpful information for elected officials, community leaders, and organizations. 
Western Washtenaw experiences the costliness of both housing and transportation needs at a higher level than other areas in Washtenaw County and in order to afford housing in Washtenaw County, an individual would need to make $26.50 an hour while working full time. Washtenaw County’s area median income (AMI) has also increased significantly in recent years, which is reflective of Washtenaw County’s high economic disparity. Amanda also emphasized that there is not enough housing stock to accommodate the aging population in the county. 
I will stay in close contact with Western Washtenaw officials and leaders to ensure I am up to date on this important issue in order to best support you and your community.
Western Wayne Mayors Regional Corporation
Joined the Conference of Western Wayne Board Meeting last week to get updates from Western Wayne cities and townships and hear about what’s going on in their communities. It’s always a priority to stay in touch with all of our local elected officials and know what issues are top of mind for you. 
Save This Plant: Trenton Engine UAW Rally
Last Thursday, I joined UAW leadership, employees, and community leaders to rally for Trenton Engine employees. This complex is the heart of Downriver, and the plant is at stake during these labor negotiations. Its employees help keep our economy and domestic supply chain strong. Since being built, the Trenton Engine Plant has built about 45 million engines and is the highest quality plant in the U.S. It’s critical that we protect these jobs to ensure hardworking Americans get their fair share. It’s because of the Labor Movement all workers have the 40-hour work week, better wages, safer workplaces, health care, paid leave, and so much more. I will always stand side by side with labor and fight for hardworking men and women, and I'll continue to fight for the future of this plant.
Asian and African American Solidarity 'Celebrating Unity' Picnic
Last Saturday, I joined our Asian and African American communities at a picnic to celebrate unity, common values, and goals. It was a great event with something for everyone. Music, food, moving conversations, and more made this the perfect September afternoon.
Walk a Mile in My Shoes
Last Sunday, Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County hosted its third annual Walk a Mile in My Shoes fundraiser. The event helped raise money for Ukrainian and other refugees as they settle into their new homes. JFS provides them with safety, nourishment, support, and guidance, and the fundraiser provides an opportunity for participants to pause and consider some of the experiences, including the traumas, losses, fears, and hopes that their clients – refugees, older adults, families dealing with food insecurity, individuals needing counseling support – face every day.
Back to School
Schools are back in session, students are settling in, and there are many issues we worry about. One I focused on this week was how much teachers are paying out of their own pockets for supplies for their students.  According to the National Education Association, more than 90% of teachers have spent their own money on school supplies and other items for their students. A survey done by My eLearning World estimates that teachers spent an average of $820.14 out of pocket on school supplies during the 2022-2023 school year, the largest amount ever. We know how much our teachers care. Each of us can help in different ways to help support our schools and our student's needs.
If you are a teacher who buys classroom supplies or other educational resources with your own money, you may be eligible for the Educator Expense Deduction to help cut costs by writing off up to $300 in unreimbursed expenses for the classroom. While the amount is not considered a credit, it does allow teachers to reduce their taxable income, knocking a few dollars off their annual tax bill. Click here to learn more and check your eligibility.
Passport Awareness Month
September is Passport Awareness month, so we wanted to remind you of some important resources and information. My office has been busy this year assisting constituents in obtaining their passports in advance of their travel. It is critical if you are planning a trip,  you think ahead about whether your passport needs to be renewed. Current processing times are 10-13 weeks for routine service and 7-9 weeks expedited. The State Department has issued more than 9 million passports to date this year. If you need assistance with your passport, my office can help. More information can be found at
Rising Firearm Related Deaths in Washtenaw County
According to a new report from Washtenaw County community health officials, there was a 74% increase in Washtenaw County-related firearm deaths from 2012-2016 to 2017-2021. From 2011-2022, the majority (70%) of firearm deaths in Washtenaw County were suicides, and 30% were classified as homicides. As we are almost halfway through Suicide Prevention Week and National Suicide Prevention Month, remember to check in with loved ones and continue learning about what each of us can do to end the stigma around mental health challenges.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, there are resources available: the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255 and my website has a list of more local mental health resources.
United Way for Southeastern Michigan and United Way of Washtenaw County Merger
United Way for Southeastern Michigan and United Way of Washtenaw County announced that they would come together to form a strong, brighter future for residents in Southeast Michigan. Both organizations are mission-driven, with a shared vision for our communities and the ability to drive meaningful impact. They’re committed to addressing the social issues locally and regionally that affect Michiganders and their families. They make a difference by supporting those experiencing poverty and financial instability, championing equity, diversity, and inclusion, and engaging communities in making an impact through giving, advocating, and volunteering.
Dr. Darienne Hudson will undoubtedly lead the next chapter for United Way with integrity as Pam Smith transitions to an advisory role after years of leadership. But, support is crucial for these organizations to succeed. It is my hope that this merger and the combination of resources, volunteers, and donors, allows United Way to expand and have greater impact on those in need throughout Southeast Michigan.
Photos of the Week
What’s great about fall is there are still many festivals and fairs, farmers markets have the best bounty of the year, football games bring everyone together, cider mills are open, and there are many in the 6th. The weather is nice enough for picnics still (though the bees are in full force), multiple city-wide garage sales, AAUW used book sales, church gatherings, and you can be out and about and all around to see a lot of people and have fun at the same time. Traditional festivals like Plymouth Fall Festival, Gordon Hall Days in Dexter, JFS Walk a Mile in My Shoes, Bollyfest, and lots more fill the weekends with rituals and traditions. Community. It’s the strength of democracy, and I am lucky to be part of strong ones. 

As always, I want to hear from you.  What do you want me to know? What are you thinking about? Please contact me with any questions, ideas, and concerns. Share them with me at this link, or by calling one of my offices in Ann Arbor, Woodhaven, or DC:
Ann Arbor: (734) 481-1100
Woodhaven: (313) 278-2936
Washington, DC: (202) 225-4071

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