Letter Reiterates Ongoing Concerns Regarding Access to Equipment Needed to Protect Frontline Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Boston, MA - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Edward J. Markey (D-MA), along with Representatives Richard E. Neal (D-MA-01), James P. McGovern (D-MA-02), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA-08), William Keating (D-MA-09), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA-04), Katherine Clark (D-MA-05), Seth Moulton (D-MA-06), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07) and Lori Trahan (D-MA-03), sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reiterate ongoing concerns regarding access to personal protective equipment (PPE) in Massachusetts and across the country and to inquire about the agency's plans to centralize and stabilize the supply and distribution chains for all equipment necessary to protect frontline workers as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
In the months since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States, the Trump administration has failed to adequately coordinate the distribution of critical supplies, including those in the Strategic National Stockpile. States, including Massachusetts, have been forced to continue to bid against each other for the nation's scarce supply of PPE and continue to face federal impediments as they scramble to find essential medical equipment to respond to this public health emergency. Massachusetts was outbid by the federal government on at least three occasions. In some cases, the federal government confiscated shipments purchased by states while en route for delivery.
"In Massachusetts, we are continuing to hear from our constituents about the sustained demand for PPE for essential workers, especially in hospitals and nursing homes," the lawmakers wrote. "Some health care providers are still being forced to reuse PPE as a means of maintaining sufficient supply. Without a proper, reliable, supply of protective equipment, Massachusetts' declining rates of infection will be difficult to sustain -especially as we begin to approach Fall where a confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic and this year's flu season could further strain the already tenuous PPE supply chain."
In the letter, the lawmakers criticize the agency's failure to adequately manage the distribution of supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). The lawmakers also criticized the Trump Administration for the refusal to use full authority under the Defense Production Act to boost production of much-needed respirators, ventilators, and other medical equipment.
"Ensuring that constituents, especially our essential workers in Massachusetts, have the proper supplies and equipment to keep healthy is of the highest priority," the lawmakers continued. "FEMA's role in this is paramount - streamlining the distribution of PPE across the country to ensure that states such as Massachusetts receive what they need."
To address their concerns, the lawmakers asked FEMA to answer a series of questions about the agency's plans to prioritize PPE distribution moving forward.
Senator Warren has pressed the Trump Administration to respond effectively to deliver the robust set of resources needed to address this emergency, including access to PPE for Massachusetts' essential workers. She urged the Trump Administration to take swift, specific action to support Massachusetts by providing personal protective equipment, expanding testing, providing supplemental funding and supporting wraparound services as the Commonwealth combats the spread of the coronavirus disease. She urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to waive all the traditional cost-share requirements for major disaster assistance. She has consistently sounded the alarm over the Trump administration's failure to deliver federal support for testing and care in Massachusetts, and has repeatedly called on Congress to force the Trump Administration to fully use the Defense Production Act to produce badly-needed medical supplies, including ventilators. Senator Warren also called on President Trump to ramp up efforts to publicly manufacture COVID-19 medical products, repeatedly pressed the Trump Administration to use the Defense Production Act and publicly manufacture medical supplies, and investigated "Project Air Bridge," the Trump administration's opaque medical supply chain management after multiple reports of seizures of supplies by federal officials, political favoritism, cronyism, and price-gouging via third-party sellers.