WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA), Chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, and Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, seeking answers as to why the Administration has not used funding in the CARES Act for the Defense Production Act to boost production of critical medical supplies and equipment needed to combat COVID-19, such as personal protection equipment and diagnostic testing.
“Three months after the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act of 2020 (CARES Act), we remain concerned that the Trump Administration’s efforts to increase the short-term and long-term domestic production of critically needed medical supplies and equipment is fragmented and uncoordinated, even as we see record number of infections and spikes in hospitalizations,” the chairs wrote.
“Since the onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the United States has faced repeated shortages of critical medical supplies and equipment from diagnostic testing to personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 respirator masks and other respirator protection,” the chairs continued. “With new coronavirus cases rising to over 60,000 per day, the highest number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic, and infection and hospitalization rates increasing in states such as Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia and Texas, it is critical to address the shortfalls that are inevitable.”
The CARES Act provided $1 billion to help boost production of medical supplies, but the Administration has only spent $212 million on the health sector and has proposed allocating $688 million to support the defense industry.
In the letter, the five chairs urged the Administration to provide detailed information regarding its actions and plans related to increasing domestic production of medical supplies and equipment before allocating any further CARES Act funds to carry out the Defense Production Act.
The full text of the letter can be found here.
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