WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Senator Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) on Wednesday unveiled the Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020, a bill that will increase the production of critical personal protective equipment (PPE) like N-95 masks and improve the transparency of the supply and distribution of medical supplies needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bill is introduced as coronavirus cases are spiking across the country and as frontline health care workers are facing shortages of critical protective equipment. The Senate Democrats’ bill authorizes $10 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile to purchase critical PPE, including N-95 masks, nitrile gloves, gowns, face shields, surgical masks, and more. This investment will provide certainty to manufacturers that there will be a market when they scale up their production.
The bill uses the Defense Production Act (DPA) as well as authorities in the Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to spur the development, investment, and production of critical PPE, addressing requests from governors. The Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020 also authorizes $1 billion for the Small Business Administration to provide grants for small business that retool domestic facilities to produce critical protective equipment over the next two years, with preferences available for minority-owned and other underserved small businesses as well as those owned by service disabled veterans with considerations for other veteran-owned businesses.
Finally, the bill requires the federal government to release reports regularly on the supplies needed to fight COVID-19 and provide direction for bolstering domestic manufacturing to provide those supplies. It also mandates the Government Accountability Office (GAO) provide recommendations on how the President may use existing authorities to purchase a sufficient supply of PPE to combat this virus.
“Frontline workers are putting everything on the line to protect us against the COVID-19 pandemic and, as the virus rages on, many of them still lack the critical personal protective equipment they desperately need. That’s completely unacceptable,” said Senator Murphy. “I’m proud to team up with Senator Schumer and Senator Murray in introducing legislation to make sure our health care workers have equipment to protect themselves and provide the best care for patients in the fight against COVID-19.”
“We all remember the early days of the crisis, when health care professionals in some parts of the country were forced to jury-rig masks and gloves from spare clothing and bits of string. In my home state of New York—nursing homes alone were burning through 12 million pieces of PPE a week during the height of the pandemic in April,” said Leader Schumer. “The recent surge in cases might bring us all back to, or beyond, the peak levels we saw earlier this year, which is why we must do everything in our power to avoid a repeat of the widespread PPE shortages, particularly N-95 masks. The Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020 will help ensure that these heroes have the resources they need to do their jobs, serve our country and help save us from this pandemic.”
“Managing the supply chain to ensure adequate PPE is pandemic response 101, yet months into this crisis the Trump Administration still hasn’t learned its lesson,” said Senator Murray. “Shortages of PPE can put lives in danger, put strain on hospitals, nursing homes, other health care facilities, and testing facilities, and can even hinder vaccine administration when the time comes. It’s inexcusable that across the country health professionals are still being forced to reuse PPE and states, Tribes, communities, and medical facilities are being left to fend for themselves and bid against each other for scarce supplies. I’m pushing for this legislation to provide much needed funding to ramp up PPE production, and I hope to work with the incoming Biden Administration to provide something else that has been severely lacking as well—federal leadership.”
“Providing personal protective equipment to frontline workers like doctors, nurses, first responders, grocery workers, and others will help save lives as cases continue to rise in Michigan and across the country,” said Senator Peters. “This bill provides the funding and ability for the government to incentivize manufacturers and small businesses in the U.S., and especially those in Michigan, to produce this critical equipment. It will also help provide small businesses with the resources to protect their employees and customers so that they can continue to safely serve their local communities. I am proud to help introduce this commonsense legislation that will help prevent the spread of this virus, support the expansion of domestic PPE production, and ensure our communities are better prepared for future outbreaks.”
“Since this public health crisis started, the Trump administration has offered broken promises and failed leadership,” said Senator Baldwin. “Now, Wisconsin is experiencing the worst COVID-19 outbreak since this pandemic began, breaking records for new infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Our frontline health care workers still don’t have the supplies they need. The Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020 will increase production of personal protective equipment and make sure our frontline workers have it to protect themselves, treat patients and save lives”
A Summary of the Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020 can be found HERE and below:
Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020
Our nation’s health care workers continue to protect and serve patients and communities during COVID-19 pandemic reaches new heights across the country. However, this Administration has failed to equip our health care heroes with the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) they need to do their jobs and save lives. We must ensure that those fighting on the frontlines have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect themselves, their patients, their communities and their families from this deadly disease.
Therefore, we propose the Protect Our Heroes Act that will:
· Provide $10 billion in funding for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to purchase large quantities of designated PPE, including N-95 masks, gloves, gowns, face shields, and surgical masks.
· Allows the Defense Production Act (DPA) and other existing authorities to expand the industrial capacity of domestic PPE production, while requiring the Comptroller General of the United States to develop recommendations on further using these authorities.
· Create a $1 billion grant program to help small businesses retool domestic facilities to produce critical PPE, with priority given to minority-owned and other underserved small businesses as well as those owned by service disabled veterans with considerations for other veteran-owned small businesses. This proposal also prioritizes small businesses that receive grants through this program when reviewing purchasing order decisions for the SNS,
· Require the federal government to release regular reports on the critical supplies needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including an assessment of the SNS and other stockpiles, direction for bolstering domestic manufacturing to provide critical supplies, plans to meet forecasted needs to combat the virus, a review of the PPE supply chain, and a detailed explanations of the authorities used under the DPA and other authorities to purchase PPE for the SNS.
· Mandate an annual Government Accountability Office report on the country’s access to the medial supplies needed to respond to this and future pandemics, as well as the health of the U.S. supply chain.
This bill has earned broad support from the very frontline workers it stands to arm with critically needed PPE, including those represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the Service Employees International Union.