04-09-2020 Letters and Commentary

Appreciating our front-line health care providers In the battle against the coronavirus, heroes are emerging. Across the country, and here at home, stories are being shared of the incredible sacrifices that are being made by our health care providers. As they face critical shortages of personal protective equipment and an inundation of new virus patients, these heroes suit up for each shift, not knowing if they too might contract the illness. Nevertheless, they serve. Our health care providers and support staff stand in the breach, striving to keep people healthy and hospitals running. They sacrifice their own health and time from their families, putting in hours that most would balk at, to fight this disease. Many have become sick in the process, and some have been lost to the virus.

I am reminded of Scripture when thinking of our health care heroes: No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. But no battle can be won alone, or even by a group of dedicated health care providers. To win, everyone must have a role. In this current fight, we stand together while apart.

Many are wondering what they can do to help. Social distancing is our contribution in the war effort. This, along with practicing basic healthy habits, is how we support the health care warriors on the front lines. The fewer of us they have to treat, the better able they will be to help the rapidly growing number of sick who are flowing into hospitals. This is how we flatten the curve, and that is how we win.

In the meantime, I thank God for every health care provider who gets up each day and answers the call to serve and make the world a better place. As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing senklasata@senate.michigan.gov.

The virus does not take the weekend off Last weekend it was appalling to see, on the news in places across the country, folks still gathering at public places like beaches. We need to remember to be vigilant during the weekend and during the week. The virus does not take the weekend off. We need to limit person to person contact in order to flatten the curve and get this virus under control. Stay home and stay safe. I know these are challenging times. Folks are feeling more isolated and miss seeing their friends and family. Be sure you are calling, texting, FaceTiming, and emailing each other to check in and stay in touch. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends taking breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting. Be sure to make time to unwind. If you would like to talk to someone, you can call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746. If it’s an emergency, please call 911. Remember, we are all in this together. We are all facing this challenge together. And together, we will get through it. To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or by visiting my website: upton.house.gov. You can also call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/ Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

All hands on-deck On March 31, the Legislature considered a concurrent resolution extending the governor’s declaration of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. The CDC’s recommended date for maintaining social distancing guidelines nationwide is May 1, not mid-June as the governor demanded. With this extension through the end of April, I’m hoping the governor uses this as an opportunity to speed up responses and answer vital questions that my constituents have posed to me and strengthen critical safety nets for employees across the state. While our friends and neighbors are struggling just to get by, the unemployment hotline and website have been inadequate to put it politely. Additionally, the decision that some businesses such as landscapers, golf courses, and pool cleaners are forced to remain closed when they could safely be open and following social distancing guidelines is confusing and isn’t supported by data other than a, “because I said so” answer from the administration. We desperately need answers to these questions before we ask Michiganders to sign away their rights for another two and a half months. Getting our state in-line with federal recommendations, CDC and CISA are commonsense, and I believe it’s a prudent step we can all take together. Every day, millions of hardworking Americans get up and go to work to keep our state and country running. My office has been flooded with calls and emails since the start of this pandemic, and it’s my duty to ensure your voices are heard as we respond to this virus. We need all hands on-deck to face this crisis and I’m prepared to work with my colleagues, Governor Whitmer’s administration, and President Trump’s administration to help our community get the help and resources it needs. Working together, we’ll get through this. If I can ever be of assistance to you, you can reach me via email at PaulineWendzel@house.mi.gov or by phone at 517-373-1403. You can also visit my website at www.RepWendzel.com.

Has everything changed? This year’s Easter season is very different. There’s a general feeling that “everything has changed”. A lot has changed, but maybe not everything. Right now many are feeling the pressure of massive unwanted change in their lives. The future is coming into doubt, and if we could, we would choose not to do this. But we haven’t been given the choice. These are serious times but not times without hope. What gives encouragement and stability as we greet each day full of warnings and casualty numbers? What gave us encouragement and hope in the past? The winning sports teams we followed? Our work? Our investments? Our friends? How are those things working for us now, when tournaments are closed down, jobs and careers are being threatened and redefined, the economy is disappearing, friends are frightened and quarantined? Our world has become very unstable. Was it maybe always unstable, we just didn’t realize it? This new vulnerability is a rude awakening to the reality of a shallow existence. An existence that when threatened and tested cannot provide real hope for the future (or for the present). The pretty soap film that was our bubble has broken. Jesus taught that there would be some really bad times towards the end, yet He also promised His followers that He would be with them to the end. That’s part of a sure foundation available to all who own Him as their Savior. Is it time to reevaluate our lives (all of us) and challenge our own priorities? We owe it to ourselves, to our families, and to our friends to share the hope that Jesus’ sure foundation provides in these times. We need Jesus now more than ever. He said, “Come unto Me all of you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NASB) We are weary and heavy-laden. We need His rest.

Financial Literacy Month, a perfect time to plan for your future April is Financial Literacy Month, a month focused on educating people about the importance of planning for a secure financial future. Social Security is a vital part of any financial plan, and we have online tools to help you understand your potential Social Security benefits and how they fit into your financial plans. You should periodically review your Social Security Statement through your personal “my Social Security” account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Your statement is an easy-to-read record of your earnings that determine your future benefits. You’ll want to verify that your recorded earnings are correct as they affect the amount you could receive. Your statement also provides a summary of the estimated benefits you and your family could receive, including potential retirement, disability, and survivors benefits. The online statement is paired with an interactive Retirement Calculator that allows you to run additional benefit estimate scenarios comparing how different future earnings and retirement benefit start dates affect your benefit amount. Start focusing on your financial literacy today. Log in to your “my Social Security” account and view your statement. If you don’t have an account, create one at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Vonda Van Til is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.

National Public Health Week Health starts where we live, learn, work, and play. Our community environment impacts our health long before we ever visit a doctor. Medical doctors are able to treat you once you’re ill, but public health exists to prevent you from ever getting sick in the first place. This week, National Public Health Week, communities across the nation are celebrating the power of prevention and the critical role that public health plays in keeping people safe and healthy year after year. In our community, the Berrien County Health Department and their dedicated staff work to prevent disease, prolong life, protect the health of our community, and promote an optimal quality of life for the citizens of Berrien County. Through vaccination programs for children and adults, reproductive health clinic services, restaurant inspections, and a variety of other health promotion programs, the Berrien County Health Department keeps us, our children, our seniors, our environment, and our communities healthy and safe. A healthy public gets sick less frequently and spends less money on health care; this means better economic productivity and an improved quality of life for everyone. This week, as you enjoy a meal from a restaurant without getting sick and your children or grandchildren stay healthy because of immunizations, pause to remember that it is because of the efforts of public health. To learn more about how the Berrien County Health Department supports your health, visit their website at www.bchdmi.org or Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bchdmi.

SUNDAY IS EASTER… I hope you find the day perfect. Easter is one of those “Holydays” that have become a national holiday. Even those who want to keep church and state separated celebrate the day by hiding Easter eggs and baskets of candy and goodies for youngsters to find. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has overshadowed much of the day’s identity, most notably the church services. Most churches have closed their doors to services in an attempt to reduce the rate of the coronavirus by keeping folks apart. It could be a well-attended church service could generate enough goodwill from prayers to the Almighty than any MANdate to prevent disease. As it is, folks wanting to keep the Easter Holyday and Holiday can do so within their own family unit. Even so, I rummaged around some former Karl’s Kolumns and picked one that mixes just enough church and state, candy and bunnies to satisfy most. KK April 2014… Around Grandma and Grandpa (Anne and I) Bayer’s house, we have started a new tradition… no Easter baskets and colored eggs for the youngsters to root around for. That adventure is (now) at our grandkids’ homes. Even so, I think Grannie Annie is gathering a hoard of candy and eggs just in case any celebrants come by. That had always been our tradition, hiding the baskets of goodies for the youngsters to hunt for come Easter morning after church; a family event passed on by our parents. I got my Easter egg hiding skills from observing my dad and spending some time hunting for my basket as a child. When it came my turn at the plate as a parent, I couldn’t wait to try my hiding skills. I may have gone overboard. I remember finding my Easter baskets, as a kid, hidden under the coal pile in the basement or outside nestled in a pile of leaves or behind boxes stacked in the shed. The operative word here is finding. I don’t ever remember “not finding” my basket (although I don’t remember finding anyone else’s either). As my own youngsters got older (and hopefully wiser), the hiding spots got tougher… spots behind a chair in the living room became closet hideaways; those hideaways became more remote and more disguised. Although my kids might disagree, my best hiding place was a basket behind a school jacket hung on the back of a bedroom door. For the kids’ sake… keep this as the beautiful Holyday/Holiday it is, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus and welcoming spring. Happy Easter to you all!

What should a leader do in a crisis?

Editor,

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took decisive action early in this coronavirus crisis with directives aimed at protecting Michiganders while slowing the spread of the virus: Mar 10- Declared State of Emergency after two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Michigan; Mar 13- Ordered cancellation of events hosting over 250 people; Mar 16- Prohibited visitors from entering justice and hospital facilities unless needed for medical care; Mar 17- Closed schools, restaurants, bars, and expanded Michigan unemployment benefits. The Governor further called for Michiganders to help combat the spread of the virus and mitigate loss of life by staying home and avoiding social contact.

In light of the severe shortage of personal protection equipment (masks, gloves, gowns, etc.) for health care workers, ventilators for desperately ill patients, and test kits to identify infected individuals, Governor Whitmer, Gov. Cuomo, and several other governors have strongly urged the president to make the federal government the “central authority” in coordinating the purchase and allocation of these essential items, as quickly as possible.

President Trump, on the other hand, has been slow to react, expressing doubt about shortages of medical supplies and boasting about the country’s still-inadequate testing capacity. Oh, and yes, since there’s still no “central authority” / oversight in this crisis, the U.S. now has every state and the Federal Government all competing ineffectively for the same critical supplies.

A leader, whether a U.S. President or a state governor, is responsible for every decision and action in their organization. To successfully fulfill the role, a leader must establish and implement policies that best meet their citizens’ needs for the situation at hand, especially in a time of crisis. Our governor is a true leader and has taken quick, sound action to help slow this crisis. Why hasn’t President Trump?

Ken Peterson, Buchanan

AEP Foundation donates $25,000 to the Southwest Michigan Cares Fund amid coronavirus pandemic

(Press Release) The American Electric Power (AEP) Foundation, on behalf of Indiana Michigan Power (I&M) donated $25,000 in emergency funds to the Southwest Michigan Cares Fund to help our local community amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our communities are facing serious impacts from this unprecedented pandemic,” said Joel Gebbie, Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer for AEP. “It’s important that the AEP Foundation, on behalf of Indiana Michigan Power does its part by joining with others to pool the much needed resources that will help sustain families, businesses and nonprofits who may not otherwise be able to stay afloat.”

In total, the AEP Foundation is donating $240,000 to support basic human needs like food, shelter and housing assistance across I&M’s service territory. Overall, the AEP Foundation will donate $1.5 million to communities served by AEP in eleven states.

“The AEP Foundation on behalf of Indiana Michigan Power has been a long-time partner of United Way and its support helps us serve the community – now more than ever,” said United Way of Southwest Michigan President Anna Murphy. “As a major funder of the Southwest Michigan Cares Fund, the AEP Foundation is assisting our many nonprofit organizations that are addressing the emerging basic needs in the region in this time of crisis.”

The Southwest Michigan Cares Fund was established by the Berrien Community Foundation and the United Way of Southwest Michigan to be distributed among those most in need as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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