COVID-19 infection rates are once again rising in Ohio and around the country, yet too many of our frontline workers — including health care providers — still do not have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need, and we still do not have enough tests.
Supply chains are critical in a crisis like this one, and our ability to produce the equipment we need in the United States is a matter of both national security and public health. We must make PPE production a federal priority to get through this current crisis, and to ensure we’re better prepared for the next one.
That’s why I’m introducing the Protecting American Heroes Act.
My bill would increase U.S. production of PPE and other critical items in the Strategic National Stockpile, to ensure that we are better prepared for a pandemic and able to quickly increase American production of the supplies we need in an emergency.
The legislation would require that all supplies in our national stockpile are made in the United States, with certain exceptions due to availability, and create a national Executive Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Strategic National Stockpile to put stockpile decisions in the hands of a high-level, qualified career professional.
The bill would also make funding for the national stockpile mandatory, so that Congress can’t play political games with critical medical resources, and we are never this far behind again.
In March, we knew that we faced shortfalls for so much of the equipment we needed — N95 masks, gowns, and, perhaps most critically, the materials we need for test production, like cotton swabs. I worked with members of both parties to make sure the president could use his authority under the Defense Production Act to ramp up production quickly, and included $1 billion in DPA funding in the CARES Act we passed in March. Yet hundreds of millions of dollars remain unspent by the president, while our states and healthcare workers continue to face supply shortages.
Workers on the frontlines of this pandemic should be focused on the important work they do every day for our country — they shouldn’t have to worry about keeping themselves healthy and safe due to a lack of protective equipment. And we should not be far behind the rest of the world in our testing capacity.
Our bill would fix that, and make sure we are never in this situation again. The American people should not have to fend for themselves in the middle of a pandemic.
Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) represents Ohio in the U.S. Senate.