More than a dozen Senate Democrats sent a letter to President Donald Trump slamming his administration for what they described as a failure to properly manage the Strategic National Stockpile amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far killed 24,000 people across the U.S.
The Democrats, led by Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Patty Murray of Washington state, urged Trump to explain why the federal stockpile was nearly depleted of critically needed personal protective equipment as the pandemic continued to worsen in the country.
The letter highlighted dozens of governors’ requests to receive supplies from the stockpile in order to protect public health workers and medical professionals who are fighting the spread of the virus.
“However, your Administration has failed to sufficiently respond to these requests,” the letter read.
“It should not take public pleas from governors or letters from congressional delegations for states to obtain the supplies they need,” the senators continued. “The stockpile was intended to support a response to a large scale disaster, and yet, as the country finds itself experiencing exactly the kind of crisis the stockpile was created to mitigate, your Administration has failed to respond with the urgency that is so clearly needed.”
The senators cited a report from the House Oversight and Reform Committee and a document from the Department of Health and Human Services published last week, which suggested that the administration did not employ an apparent strategy when sending supplies from the stockpile to states.
HHS told the committee that the administration had no more PPE to send out to states, saying the last 10% is reserved for federal workers.
Each state received at least three shipments of PPE and supplies from the federal government, according to the report. However, in the last shipment, labeled as the “final push,” some states received the same amount of supplies despite having vastly different populations.
Vermont, a state with a population of 623,989, received the same amount of N95 masks as Texas, which has a population of 28.9 million. Both states received 120,900 of the masks, which filter 95% of air particles.
The Democrats also expressed concern over Trump’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner’s remarks earlier this month, claiming that the supplies in the federal stockpile were not meant for states to use.
Trump later defended Kushner’s comments by saying that the federal government was “not an ordering clerk.”
“They have to fend for themselves,” Trump said of the states.
After Kushner’s comment, the HHS had updated its description of the national stockpile on its website to match the adviser’s claim.
The senators sent the president five questions to clarify what the administration’s strategy was when sending stockpile supplies to states, including how they prioritized states’ requests, what role Kushner plays in the coronavirus task force and why the HHS’s definition of the stockpile was changed on its website.
The Democrats also asked Trump how his administration would ensure that the distribution of supplies to states would not be politicized.
- How is the Administration prioritizing requests from states? Who is making decisions about current distribution practices?
- Recent reporting indicates that Senior Advisor Jared Kushner is now charged with overseeing the distribution of supplies from the stockpile and additional supplies obtained by the federal government. What is the role of Jared Kushner and how does it interact with other established efforts, including the Coronavirus Task Force led by Vice President Pence and the Supply Chain Stabilization Task Force led by Admiral Polowczyk?
- Why were significant changes made to the stockpile’s website on April 3 to align with inaccurate statements made by Mr. Kushner, and who in the Administration requested that the changes be made? Is this change indicative of a larger shift in the management of the stockpile?
- What is the current process to replenish the stockpile and how is this coordinated with FEMA’s procurement process?
- How is the Administration is working to ensure that the distribution of life-saving supplies is free from political interference?
Read the full letter here: