11.23.20

SCHUMER: AS A SECOND COVID WAVE HITS NEW YORK, STATE CANNOT RISK INADEQUATE FREE TESTING AND A REPEAT OF DESPERATELY LOW STOCKS OF MASKS ACROSS NY; SITUATION MUST BE ADDRESSED NOW TO AVOID MAJOR CONSEQUENCES FOR NORTH COUNTRY RESIDENTS & HEALTH CARE WORKERS; STANDING WITH LEWIS COUNTY OFFICIALS, SCHUMER PUSHES TWO-PRONGED PLAN TO HELP NEW YORKERS, DOCS, NURSES, HOSPITALS, AND PROVIDERS GET INFLUX OF TESTING, MASKS, & OTHER PPE

Schumer Says We Must Learn From The First Months Of The Pandemic Where Testing & PPE Were Scarce, & Ensure North Country’s Residents & Frontline Health Care Workers Have Sufficient Access To Free Rapid Testing, N-95 Masks, And Other PPE 

Using All Possible Federal Resources, Schumer’s Plan 1) Utilize $9 Billion In Federal Testing Dollars HHS Is Holding Onto, & 2) Would Provide $11 Billion To Produce and Expand Manufacturing Capacity for Critical PPE & Get Desperately Needed Masks To North Country  

Schumer: As North Country Faces Second Round Of Testing & PPE Battle, Feds Need To Give Them Their Armor

A consistent champion for rural healthcare, frontline health care workers, and small businesses during the pandemic, Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer, standing at the Lewis County Office Building, unveiled his two-pronged plan to ramp up testing availability and domestic production of PPE, including N-95 masks, with the help of Upstate New York’s small businesses. First, Schumer demanded that the department of Health and Human Services release the $9 billion for testing they are sitting on that Schumer secured for a national, coordinated, and robust testing regime. Second, Schumer revealed the Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020, which provides $11 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to purchase critical PPE like N-95 masks and to support small businesses in expanding domestic production of critical PPE. Specifically, the legislation provides $1 billion in federal, Small Business Administration (SBA) grants for small businesses to retool domestic facilities to produce critical PPE over the next two years. Schumer also said he intends to continue fighting for rural communities, like Lewis County, across Upstate New York as the possibility of a second wave emerges and as a COVID relief deal continues to be negotiated.

“With flu season upon us and a resurgence of COVID in New York, in order to keep everyone safe, we’re going to need rapid tests and PPE, and we’re going to need them quickly,” said Senator Schumer. “Right now, North Country residents have some free testing available to them and health care workers have a little bit of PPE stored, but there are major concerns about whether the community is equipped to get through the emerging second wave of the pandemic. We’re going to use all the federal resources possible to ramp up free testing and PPE production for the North Country, ensuring peace of mind and some semblance of stability to New Yorkers who have already endured a tumultuous year.”

Schumer added, “We all remember the early days of the crisis, when getting COVID test results back took days if you could even get one, and 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. 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 testing and PPE shortages, particularly rapid testing and N-95 masks.”

Schumer negotiated $9 billion for a national testing regime into the CARES Act, which HHS has yet to allocate. The funding would provide millions of rapid test kits and hundreds of rapid testing machines across the U.S., boosting the ability of communities, especially rural ones like Lewis, to combat the emerging second wave of COVID-19. The senator said releasing the funding was a high priority, with testing and contact tracing being important tools to containing the virus.

Furthermore, the senator threw his support behind the Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020, which, in addition to providing $1 billion for small businesses, authorizes $10 billion for the SNS to purchase critical PPE, including N-95 masks, nitrile gloves, gowns, face shields, surgical masks, and more. This investment will provide certainty to domestic manufacturers that there will be a market when they scale up their production. The plan also 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.

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.

Specifically, the Protect Our Heroes Act 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.

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