Durbin Joins Leahy, Murray, Tester To Call On President Trump To Increase PPE And Testing Capacity

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Jon Tester (D-MT) to call on President Trump to utilize resources already passed by Congress and signed into law to increase production of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing capacity.  Durbin, Leahy, Murray, and Tester also are leading Democratic members of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  

In a letter to President Trump, Durbin, Leahy, Murray and Tester wrote: “It was only a few short months ago that the country watched in alarm as the PPE shortage was so severe doctors and nurses were forced to reuse masks and gowns that were meant for one-time use.  We saw healthcare workers in garbage bag gowns and reusing the same N95 masks for days on end while they risked their lives to save others.  We should not, cannot, and must not go back to those days.”

They continued:  “In April, Congress appropriated $25 billion through the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act specifically to expand testing capacity and conduct surveillance and contact tracing to ensure we were prepared for another spike in cases.  Yet based on the latest information from the Department of Health and Human Services, three months later less than half of the money provided has been obligated by the federal government and gaps in testing capacity and contact tracing are pervasive.”

In the coronavirus supplemental legislation, Congress has appropriated more than $16 billion to strengthen the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), $45 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist states during this emergency, and $1 billion in Defense Production Act (DPA) funds to support development and production of PPE in the private market.  Yet nearly four months later, the Administration has obligated only half of the funds Congress provided for the SNS, and only a portion of this was spent on PPE, and the Department of Defense reportedly intends to use nearly 70 percent of the DPA funding for shipbuilding, aircraft development, and other defense programs. 

The full letter is available here.