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Bergman: Cooperation needed to address housing shortage, infrastructure

Steve Schulwitz/Alpena News Congressman Jack Bergman was a special guest at the grand opening of the Northland Area Federal Credit Union on Wednesday. Bergman addressed the crowd, and helped unveil a new veterans memorial.

ALPENA — Congressman Jack Bergman visited Alpena on Wednesday for meetings and to participate in the grand opening of the Northland Area Federal Credit Union.

While in town, Bergman, a Republican from Watersmeet, provided an update on developments in Washington.

Bergman touched on a series of issues, and on the condition and direction of the nation as it slowly exits the COVID-19 pandemic.

INFRASTRUCTURE LEGISLATION

Leading Republicans on Capitol Hill and President Joe Biden want to reach a bipartisan deal on a bill to address infrastructure issues in the country. Biden seeks $1.7 trillion for roads, bridges, airports, fiber, and other tangible needs. It also would include funding for social programs and initiatives that Democrats believe fall under the definition of infrastructure.

On Wednesday, Biden ended talks with the Republicans, but Bergman said he believes a bipartisan agreement will reach the president’s desk.

“The longer this goes, the better chance I think we have for some bipartisan breakthrough,” Bergman said. “November 2022 is getting real close, real quick, and they are going to want to have this to hand their hat on.”

UNEMPLOYMENT and HIRING SHORTAGE

Businesses around the country continue to struggle to fill positions. Some have been forced to close, or reduce hours because they don’t have the staffing to run normal hours. Businesses try to entice new workers with higher starting wages and incentives, but still, much of the workforce continues to sit on the sidelines, even though the nation is stepping out of the pandemic.

Bergman said the solution to the problem is simple math. He said if a person makes more money at home from unemployment, what incentive do they have to return to work? He said the government needs to lower the benefit compensation, which was increased significantly to help those out of work during COVID-19, and that will start applications and resumes rolling into businesses.

“Do the math,” Bergman said. “Many people are making more money sitting at home. Michigan has to do what many other states did. It has to stop with the large unemployment payments. It’s actually pretty easy to figure out.”

HOUSING CRISIS

Bergman said the current housing shortage impacts about 80% of communities in the nation, including northern Michigan. He said people are struggling to find homes to buy or rent, especially affordable ones.

Bergman said the federal government needs to step up and help people find quality living quarters, and assist developers who are looking to build housing. He said quality housing impacts many aspects of a community, and should be considered infrastructure.

“We should consider affordable housing in our infrastructure discussion,” he said. “The federal government should be working on the marketplace to increase capacity. That could include tax breaks for entities that have money and invest in it. We have a need, so why wouldn’t we offer tax credits to start getting units built?”

VOTING AGAINST CREATING A JAN. 6 COMMISSION

Bergman voted against a proposed commission that would investigate the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

The House of Representatives approved legislation for an independent commission to investigate the violent act at the Capitol, but it failed in the Senate. Bergman voted against the bill because he believed the commission was going to be used as a political weapon.

“I wanted to vote for that, but there was every evidence that the commission was going to be politicized,” Bergman said. “There was no guarantee that this was going to lay bare the way it should.”

COVID-19

Bergman said the pandemic will likely change people’s behavior and a cultural change may develop. He said change needs to happen organically, without government intervention. Bergman said it is possible more Americans will wear masks during times when illnesses like the flu are spreading, but he insisted it shouldn’t be up to the government to force on people.

Bergman said the government learned a lot during the pandemic, and sees where changes need to be made. He said the nation saw disruptions in critical services that people and businesses depend on to survive. Making sure they stay intact and are protected if there is another emergency is key.

“We have to look at things like our supply-chain,” Bergman said. “We really need to do a deep-dive, post COVID, over everything that has happened the last 16 months. Our supply chain was fractured from end to end, and is still fractured. We shut things down, but we never had any thoughts about how to open things back up.”

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