07-30-2020 Letters and Commentary

Mid-year review It seems like it was just yesterday I had taken my oath of office and began serving as the voice of my community in our state capitol. Despite the unprecedented setbacks of COVID-19, I’ve been able to deliver meaningful results to the hardworking people of Berrien County. The largest accomplishment by far has been the historic auto-insurance reform package. For decades, special interests have profited off our broken insurance system while Michiganders have had their wallets drained. On July 1 that finally ended. My largest personal accomplishment has been leading a 16-bill package to help Berrien County businesses grow and expand. Now law, my bills will help local brewers by allowing them to distribute more of their product without signing a contract with a distributor. This slashes red tape and allows these businesses to grow without imposing regulations at too early of a stage. I’ve also had the opportunity to work on other issues that are important to the people of Southwest Michigan. Some of this year’s highlights include: Leading our state and nation with bipartisan criminal justice reforms; protecting our great lakes, precious natural resources, and the 1,800 jobs that depend on Southwest Michigan’s sportfishing industry; defending the integrity of our elections; assisting Michigan’s professional license holders by providing a credit on the renewal of their license; opposing the dangerous and reckless policy of defunding local police departments; protecting our most vulnerable residents from the governor’s dangerous nursing home policy; and respecting your tax dollars and standing up for small businesses. Michiganders work hard for their money, and they deserve to know Lansing is investing in their priorities and helping them recover from the COVID pandemic. It’s the honor and privilege of a lifetime serving you. If there is anything I can do to be of service to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out via email at PaulineWendzel@house. mi.gov or by phone at 517-373-1403. You can also visit my website at www.RepWendzel.com.

Focusing on children’s eye health Sun and screens are likely two of the most impactful things on a child’s life during the summer months in Michigan. And while they are fundamentally different – one involves being outdoors and the other typically indoors – they both can play a significant role in children’s eyesight. August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, a time set aside by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) to focus on and bring awareness to youth vision. Summer in Southwest Michigan is one of the best times to call our part of the state home. Spending time outdoors in the warmth of the sun is a great time for families to get out and enjoy nature and fun activities. Though it is true that overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can be damaging to our eyes, it is also true that a lack of sun exposure can have health effects. According to the AAO, some studies suggest sun exposure is necessary for normal visual development, and children who experience less sun exposure are thought to be at a higher risk for developing myopia or nearsightedness. So, telling our kids and grandkids to go play outside is in fact good for them in more ways than one. Just make sure they are wearing full spectrum, UV blocking sunglasses and sunscreen. Another, perhaps, more growing concern is the amount of time our kids are spending staring at screens. Youth are spending hours per day using phones, tablets, and computers at very close distances to their faces. AAO indicates that nearsightedness is becoming more common, and whether screen time is solely or in part contributing to increased myopia, it is important that we are ensuring kids take frequent breaks from staring at their screens. A simple recommendation is to follow the 20-20-20 rule – that every 20 minutes you put down the screen and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. In addition to these easy methods we can practice at home, it is also important that children receive eye screenings. Regular checkups can help detect any potential problems sooner, which can help provide any necessary vision correction to ensure eye health. For more information on eye health and safety or to find an ophthalmologist near you, visit https://www.aao.org/. As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517)373-6960 or sending an email to senklasata@senate.mich igan.gov.

Getting to the other side of trouble When the War of 1812 began in June of that year, the future of the newly free and independent United States was cloudy. A lot was happening that threatened “the great experiment’s” survival, including troubles with both England and France. Congress had approved the building of six heavy frigates. The USS Constitution was one of the three largest, which also included the USS President, and the USS United States. “Old Ironside” left Boston Harbor in July, 1812, sailing south to join with some merchant ships. Off the coast of New Jersey, by Egg Harbor, they encountered a British squadron of five warships. Captain Isaac Hull determined that it was too one-sided, and turned to escape. Then it happened. The wind stopped – for all of them. Hull dispatched long boats to tow the Constitution. The British saw it and did likewise. Then a young lieutenant, Charles Morris, had an idea. Take the anchors out in front of the ship, and drop them far ahead. Then work the winches to pull the ship forward. It worked! It’s called kedging and is used for freeing ships from sand bars or for tight maneuvering in port. The American sailors had endured 57 hours fleeing the British by rowing and kedging. Their persistence and ingenuity won the day. Later, the Constitution would sink one of those ships that had pursued her that day in 1812. Charles Morris’ perspective had proven true: “Keep faith in the advantages to be effected from perseverance, so long as any chance for success may remain.” Similar Biblical guidance says, “So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9, NET) With Jesus Christ as our anchor, held on firmly by the rope of faith; our perseverance in pulling through troubles will also assure our deliverance.

Let’s not anchor down our small businesses as they look to reopen It has now been some five months since COVID-19 changed the world as we know it, and nearly everyone has been impacted one way or another. That includes southwest Michigan’s small businesses. Back in March, Congress passed, and I voted for, the CARES Act that established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which has funneled more than $16 billion to Michigan small businesses and helped keep 1.5 million employees on the payroll. Since its passage, I’ve had a number of conversations with small business owners, and it’s clear that the PPP has been a real lifeline. To that end, I recently introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure that this lifeline would not become an anchor as businesses look to get back on their feet. My Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act would cut burdensome red tape and expedite the loan forgiveness process for countless small businesses with PPP loans of $150,000 or less. This will certainly relieve stress for business owners, their employees, and local lenders as we all work on our economic recovery. With so much uncertainty, our small businesses – which are truly the backbone of our local economies – should be focused on using PPP funds to reopen their doors, rehire employees, and prepare for the future; not sifting through mountains of paperwork. 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).

New feature in My Social Security puts you in control The future can be uncertain. However, Social Security’s new Advance Designation program can help put you in control of your benefits if a time comes when you need a representative payee to help manage your money. Advance Designation enables you to identify up to three people, in priority order, whom you would like to serve as your potential representative payee. The following people may choose an Advance Designation: Adults applying for benefits who do not have a representative payee; adult beneficiaries or recipients who do not have a representative payee; emancipated minors applying for benefits who do not have a representative payee; emancipated minor beneficiaries or recipients who do not have a representative payee. If you fall into one of the above categories, you may provide and update Advance Designation information when you: File a claim for benefits online; use the application available in your personal “my Social Security” account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount; call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You may also change your Advance Designation(s), including the priority order, at any time while you are still capable of making your own decisions. In the event that you can no longer make your own decisions, you and your family will have peace of mind knowing you already chose someone you trust to manage your benefits. 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.

PLEASE DON’T WASTE YOUR VOTE! Time and again when I’m extolling some to get out and vote and not to waste it – I get the reply – It’s my right not to vote just as much as it is my right to vote.

That may be, but I’ll guarantee nobody has spent the billions of dollars that others spend to take it away from you.

The primary election next Tuesday is a political one, no doubt about it. Candidates, political parties and lobbyists all have a hand out for your vote. Go ahead, take your pick. That’s your right and privilege.

Election Day is also one where the local ballot asks for your opinion and support on issues such as police, fire and ambulance operations, institutional request to support hometown libraries, schools and such. Others will be for extra funds to fix the local roads, sidewalks and such. Others still will be seeking support for public spaces for parks, beaches and woodlands.

Indeed, it is your right to vote, just don’t lose it or abuse it. There are others that hope you will.

SPEAKING OF PARKS … I was reading discussions on F