Yesterday, U.S. Rep. David McKinley's (R-W.Va) bipartisan Strengthening America's Strategic National Stockpile Act, passed the U.S. House of Representatives. This legislation would reduce America's dependence on foreign sources of critical medical supplies the country needs to fight COVID-19 by making much-needed improvements and updates to America's Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), and boosting domestic manufacturing of those supplies here in America.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the stockpile has struggled to fulfill urgent needs in the states for personal protective equipment, ventilators and other supplies to fight the pandemic, failing to fulfill requests for supplies or providing outdated items.
"The shortages of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic exposed a glaring weakness in our supply chain," said Rep. David McKinley. "Simply put we are too reliant on foreign nations for vital medical supplies. Improving the Strategic National Stockpile and working to bring manufacturing of PPE and other supplies back to America will help make sure we are equipped to face these challenges in the future."
"This bipartisan bill came directly from my experience trying to get PPE for our frontline workers, and was drafted to ensure we are never again dependent on foreign suppliers for equipment we need to keep Americans safe in a crisis," Rep. Elissa Slotkin said (D-MI). "I'm thrilled that it passed with unanimous, bipartisan support in the House. During the heat of the COVID-19 crisis, when Michigan and other states called on the Strategic National Stockpile for urgently needed masks, gloves and other protective gear, what we got was nowhere close to what we needed. After fighting to get masks from China to hospitals here in my district, I introduced this bipartisan legislation to reduce our dependence on foreign suppliers, improve our ability to protect our frontline workers, and help make more critical medical supplies here in America."
The Strengthening America's Strategic National Stockpile Act would:
Make sure stockpile items are in good working order and ready to use if and when a crisis hits. Will ensure items in the stockpile are in good working order and aren't expired by requiring regular maintenance.
Increase manufacturing of critical supplies in America. Will boost domestic production of critical supplies by establishing a $500 million pilot program to diversify sources of personal protective equipment and partnering with industry to replenish existing stocks.
Improve stockpile financial security and reduce waste by allowing the transfer of stockpile items nearing their expiration dates to other federal agencies.
Bring transparency to past stockpile allocations. Will require the administration to report to Congress on all state, local, tribal and territorial requests for stockpile supplies during the pandemic and the response to each request.
Bring transparency to process for stockpile allocations. Will require development of improved, transparent processes for distribution of goods from the stockpile and provide the states with clear, transparent guidelines on how to request distributions from the stockpile.
Take steps to return money to taxpayers when companies profit off of SNS products. Will explore the possibility of further strengthening the stockpile financially by requiring a Government Accountability Office study on implementing a user fee to reimburse the stockpile for items such as antitoxins, for which it is the sole provider and for which health care providers or others may charge patients.
Support states' readiness in a public health emergency. Will establish a pilot program to support state efforts to expand and maintain their own stockpiles.
Put more resources behind the SNS. Will provide increased resources for the stockpile by raising annual authorized funding for its operations from $610 million to $705 million for fiscal years 2020 through 2023.
Reps. Susan Brooks (R-IN), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Earl L. Buddy Carter (R-GA), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Diana DeGette (D-CO), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), Darren Soto (D-FL), Fred Upton (R-MI), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Richard Hudson (R-NC), Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA), Greg Gianforte (R-MT), Gil Cisneros (D-CA), Joe Neguse (D-CO), and Michael Burgess (R-TX), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) are original co-sponsors on the bill.