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Bergman key in helping communities

To the Journal editor:

Washington politics have become so polarized that it can be tough for Democrats and Republicans to come together to tackle big challenges. But that’s exactly what happened recently on Capitol Hill thanks to dedicated lawmakers like U.S. Jack Bergman.

Bergman, R-Watersmeet, listened to thousands of electric cooperative stakeholders as he fought tirelessly to add important legislation to the 2020 spending bill.

The bill was signed into law on Dec. 20, and included a provision known as the RURAL Act, which solved an existential issue for electric co-ops like Alger Delta and America’s rural communities.

Electric co-ops sometimes get government grants to help pay for projects and infrastructure that benefit the communities they serve. These include grants for storm recovery, broadband deployment, renewable energy and economic development.

In order to maintain their tax-exempt status, co-ops can receive no more than 15 percent of their income from non-member sources. Historically, government grants were not counted toward that 15 percent.

But due to a glitch in the 2017 tax law, government grants were reclassified as income, pushing some co-ops beyond the 15 percent threshold and jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.

This tax problem left many electric co-ops with a very difficult choice: accept grants and risk taxes, penalties and higher rates for electricity? Or take a pass and let rural consumers suffer and lag behind?

Thanks to Congress, electric co-ops across Michigan don’t have to make that choice anymore. This is good news for both electric co-ops and their members because some co-ops would have had to raise their electric rates to pay new taxes.

We at Alger Delta are extremely grateful to U.S. Rep. Bergman for his support of the RURAL Act. In standing up for Upper Peninsula communities, he proved that Congress still works for “We, the People”. Notably, the legislation drew the bipartisan support of more than 300 lawmakers in the House and more than half of the Senate before it was passed. That’s a rarity in Washington these days.

In today’s fast-paced society, pausing to give thanks is done with increasing rarity. Alger Delta doesn’t want to be counted among the ungrateful. So, thank you Rep. Bergman. Thank you for looking out for rural communities in the U.P. and thank you for working with us to solve this problem.

TOM HARRELL, CEO

Alger Delta Cooperative Electric Association