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Thursday, March 4th, 2021

Sens. Durbin, Cassidy introduce bill to address shortages in PPE, testing supplies

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U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) introduced legislation to address shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing supplies.

The Protecting Providers Everywhere (PPE) in America Act would boost domestic PPE and testing supply production. It would also promote a more sustainable supply chain by ensuring dedicated funding from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to American manufacturers of applicable medical supplies.

“We are introducing this bill to improve our COVID-19 response and prepare for future public health emergencies by increasing domestic production capacity for PPE and medical supplies. It’s an outrage that our health care heroes have not had adequate supplies to stay safe and serve our communities, and the PPE in America Act will strengthen our domestic supply chain to ensure we are not caught short-handed again,” Durbin said.

The reliance on foreign sources for these supplies has created shortages and price spikes. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), an estimated 95 percent of surgical masks and 75 percent of N95 respirators are made overseas.

“COVID-19 has shown the danger of our nation’s dependence on life-saving supplies from countries halfway around the world,” Cassidy said. “This legislation supports jobs here at home, bolsters our independence, and strengthens our nation’s supply chain in the face of pandemic.”

Specifically, the PPE in America Act would authorize a pilot project at the Department of Health and Human Services designed to boost domestic PPE and testing supply production. It would require that at least 40 percent and up to 100 percent of applicable supplies procured by the SNS be from domestic manufacturers. It would also establish a replenishable mechanism for the SNS by routinely transferring supplies to federal agencies or selling to the commercial health care market.

The bill has been endorsed by the American Hospital Association, the International Safety Equipment Association, the Illinois Nurses Association, and the Illinois Health and Hospital Association.

A companion bill will be introduced in the U.S. Representative by Reps. Brad Schneider (D-IL) and David McKinley (R-WV).