Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley said today they are co-sponsoring legislation that would 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 Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020 was introduced as coronavirus cases spike nationwide and as frontline health care workers face shortages of critical protective equipment. The bill would authorize $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 would provide certainty to manufacturers that there will be a market when they scale up their production.
“From Day One of this pandemic, it’s been clear in Oregon and nationwide that frontline health workers must be properly equipped in this life-and-death battle with masks and other protective gear that keep them safe,” Wyden said. “With COVID-19 surging again, this legislation would ensure healthcare heroes don’t endure a repeat of earlier debacles in this public health crisis when the Trump administration failed to provide the leadership needed to accelerate PPE production.”
“Throughout this pandemic, I’ve been hearing from the dedicated health care workers on the frontlines of this crisis about the serious challenges they’re facing,” said Merkley. “What couldn’t be more clear is the serious need for federal help in procuring personal protective equipment, so our health care heroes can continue to provide their live-saving care, and stay safe as they work on our behalf. Every day that we delay in getting them the supplies they need, more lives are being put at risk. Enough.”
The bill also would use the Defense Production Act as well as authorities in the Federal Emergency Management Act and the Department of Health and Human Services, to spur the development, investment, and production of critical PPE, addressing requests from governors. The Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020 also would authorize $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.
And the bill would require 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 would mandate the Government Accountability Office provide recommendations on how the President may use existing authorities to buy a sufficient supply of PPE to fight this virus.
In addition to Wyden and Merkley, other co-sponsors of the bill introduced by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), U.S. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) are U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Robert Casey (D-PA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jack Reed (RI), Mark Warner (D-VA)
A summary of the Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020 is HERE.
A web version of this release is here.