U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) and David McKinley (R-WV) introduced a bill 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 funding from the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to American manufacturers of medical supplies.
“First responders, frontline medical workers, and other essential workers are struggling to acquire adequate PPE to safely do their jobs, in part because of our reliance on imports with long lead times. The PPE in America Act will help make sure that we’ll have sufficient supplies of PPE as we beat this pandemic and will do so with American jobs,” Schneider said.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, about 95 percent of surgical masks and 75 percent of N95 respirators are made overseas. As demand from across the globe constrained production capacity for these critical medical supplies throughout the pandemic, prices rose. Further, access in the United States was severely constricted. As a result, essential frontline workers have worked for months with inadequate protection. About 80 percent of nurses said they are reusing single-use equipment.
“During the pandemic, we’ve learned just how reliant on foreign countries America is for critical supplies like masks, gloves, and medical equipment,” said McKinley. “We must take concrete steps to reduce this dependence by developing domestic supply chains for these essential products. Doing so will not only strengthen our economic and national security but will also create American manufacturing jobs,” McKinley said.
This bill would authorize a pilot project at the Department of Health and Human Services. This pilot program would require at least 40 percent, and up to 100 percent, of applicable supplies procured by the SNS to 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 legislation has been endorsed by the American Hospital Association, the International Safety Equipment Association, the Illinois Nurses Association, and the Illinois Health and Hospital Association.
U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the companion bill in the Senate.