WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, helped introduce the Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020, a bill that will increase the domestic 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.
“Providing personal protective equipment to frontline workers like doctors, nurses, first responders, grocery workers, and others will help save lives as cases continue to rise in Michigan and across the country,” said Senator Peters. “This bill provides the funding and ability for the government to incentivize manufacturers and small businesses in the U.S., and especially those in Michigan, to produce this critical equipment. It will also help provide small businesses with the resources to protect their employees and customers so that they can continue to safely serve their local communities. I am proud to help introduce this commonsense legislation that will help prevent the spread of this virus, support the expansion of domestic PPE production, and ensure our communities are better prepared for future outbreaks.”
The bill was introduced as Coronavirus cases are spiking across the country and as frontline health care workers are facing shortages of critical protective equipment. It authorizes $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 will provide certainty to manufacturers, that there will be a market when they scale up their production.
The bill also uses the Defense Production Act (DPA) as well as authorities of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to spur the development, investment, and production of critical PPE, addressing requests from governors. The Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020 also authorizes $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. These funds could help dozens of Michigan based companies that have already altered production models to help produce PPE in order to combat the virus.
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.