Photos by Eamon Handzel
On a sunny and windy afternoon at Environmental Composites Inc. in Frankfort, NY, Senator Charles Schumer spoke to the media about his plan to see that domestic businesses that produce PPE get federal relief money to expand and increase production. Schumer and his staff observed all proper guidelines, with no one but his personal staff, a few factory execs, and the press attending.
The following is the Press Release from the Schumer office:
- Using All Possible Federal Resources, Schumer’s Plan Would Provide $11 Billion To Produce Critical PPE & Get Desperately Needed Masks To Mohawk Valley
- Schumer Says We Must Learn From In The First Months Of The Pandemic Where PPE Was Scarce, & Ensure Mohawk Valley’s Frontline Health Care Workers Have Sufficient Access To N-95 Masks And Other PPE
- Schumer: As Mohawk Valley Frontline Workers Face Second Round Of PPE Battle, Feds Need To Give Them Their Armor
A consistent champion for frontline health care workers and small businesses during the pandemic, Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer, standing at Environmental Composites Inc., unveiled his plan to ramp up domestic production of PPE, including N95 masks, with the help of Upstate New York’s small businesses. Schumer explained that the Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020 provides $1 billion in federal, Small Business Administration (SBA) grants for small businesses, like Environmental Composites Inc., to retool domestic facilities to produce critical PPE over the next two years, with special considerations available for minority-owned and other socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses as well as those owned by service-disabled veterans with considerations for other veteran-owned businesses.
Schumer said his plan was essential to ensuring New York’s health care system would be properly equipped to handle a second wave of COVID cases, and said the plan was a win-win-win for health care workers, who suit up every day to beat back the virus, for Upstate small businesses who are struggling from the economic effects of the crisis, and for the American people, who are suffering as the virus peaks again.
“We all remember the early days of the crisis, when health care professionals in some parts of the country were forced to jury-rig masks and gloves from spare clothing and bits of string. In my home state of New York—nursing homes alone were burning through 12 million pieces of PPE a week during the height of the pandemic in April,” said Senator Schumer. “The recent surge in cases might bring us all back to, or beyond, the peak levels we saw earlier this year, which is why we must do everything in our power to avoid a repeat of the widespread PPE shortages, particularly N-95 masks. The Protect Our Heroes Act of 2020 will empower our Upstate Small businesses right here in the Mohawk Valley to help ensure that these heroes have the resources they need to do their jobs, serve our country and help save us from this pandemic.”
Schumer added “Environmental Composites is using innovative techniques to ease PPE shortages across the country and I applaud them for their courageous efforts. This legislation will equip manufacturers like them with the resources they need to continue their important work, keep our domestic supply chain intact for future crisis’ and create jobs right here at home.”
President of the Greater New York Hospital Association, Kenneth E. Raske, said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that there’s no such thing as too much PPE. The Protect Our Heroes Act is exactly what the nation needs to ensure that hospitals and their indispensable workers have ample PPE in any scenario, including a second COVID-19 surge. The entire hospital community is deeply grateful to Senator Schumer for his vision and leadership.”
HANY’S President, Bea Grause, RN, JD, said, “New York’s hospitals and health systems and their hardworking caregivers know firsthand from working on the front lines early in the pandemic what it’s like to experience shortages of critical supplies. We must prevent repeating that turmoil and uncertainty as New York and the nation fight through another surge. The Protect Our Heroes Act would leverage the resources and tools at the federal government’s disposal to address the urgent need for PPE in a transparent way. We applaud Leader Schumer for his constant commitment to ensuring our healthcare providers have ample supplies available to safely continue their jobs and to protect our patients and communities.”
NYSNA Executive Director, Pat Kane, RN, said, “It’s been eight months since this pandemic began and frontline healthcare workers still don’t have the PPE we need to stay safe and save lives. Nurses have been calling for the federal government to use the full force of the Defense Production Act to get us this crucial PPE. With COVID-19 surging across the country, a comprehensive federal response is more urgent than ever. We need Congress to pass this bill and protect our frontline heroes.”
Community Health Care Association of NYS President and CEO, Rose Duhan, said, “The first COVID wave exposed the holes in our nation’s ability to respond to the virus and taught us that the best way to protect our health care heroes was to provide them with necessary PPE to keep them safe. Senator Schumer’s plan will do that while also protecting our small businesses and we thank him for taking the lead on these important issues. The Protect Our Heroes Act will ensure the equitable distribution of PPE to all of our front-line workers, including those at Community Health Centers, who are often left to fend for themselves. We thank Senator Schumer for his leadership and continued support.”
In addition to the grants for small businesses, the Protect Our Heroes Act will authorize $10 billion for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to purchase critical PPE, including N-95 masks, nitrile gloves, gowns, face shields, surgical masks, and more. This investment will provide certainty to domestic manufacturers that there will be a market when they scale up their production. The plan also uses the Defense Production Act (DPA) as well as authorities in the Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to spur the development, investment, and production of critical PPE, addressing requests from governors.
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.
The Protect Our Heroes Act will:
- Provide $10 billion in funding for the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to purchase large quantities of designated PPE, including N-95 masks, gloves, gowns, face shields, and surgical masks.
- Allows the Defense Production Act (DPA) and other existing authorities to expand the industrial capacity of domestic PPE production, while requiring the Comptroller General of the United States to develop recommendations on further using these authorities.
- Create a $1 billion grant program to help small businesses retool domestic facilities to produce critical PPE, with priority given to minority-owned and other underserved small businesses as well as those owned by service disabled veterans with considerations for other veteran-owned small businesses. This proposal also prioritizes small businesses that receive grants through this program when reviewing purchasing order decisions for the SNS,
- Require the federal government to release regular reports on the critical supplies needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including an assessment of the SNS and other stockpiles, direction for bolstering domestic manufacturing to provide critical supplies, plans to meet forecasted needs to combat the virus, a review of the PPE supply chain, and a detailed explanations of the authorities used under the DPA and other authorities to purchase PPE for the SNS.
- Mandate an annual Government Accountability Office report on the country’s access to the medial supplies needed to respond to this and future pandemics, as well as the health of the U.S. supply chain.