U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin led a bipartisan group of lawmakers in introducing the Strengthening America’s Strategic National Stockpile Act, a major bipartisan package the House will consider to begin reducing America’s dependence on foreign sources of critical medical supplies the country needs to fight COVID-19, boost domestic manufacturing to make those supplies here in America, and make much-needed improvements and updates to America’s Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). It is expected to be considered in the House Energy and Commerce Committee this week.
Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Susan Brooks (R-IN), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Earl L. Buddy Carter (R-GA), Jackie Walorski (R-IN), Diana DeGette (D-CO), David McKinley (R-WV), 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 Schier (D-WA), Greg Gianforte (R-MT), Gil Cisneros (D-CA), Joe Neguse (D-CO), and Michael Burgess (R-TX), are original co-sponsors on the bill.
“Our frontline medical providers have been in combat against a deadly virus without the armor they need to protect themselves,” Slotkin said. “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. We should never again be dependent on foreign suppliers for equipment we need to keep Americans safe in a crisis.”
“It’s simple: this bipartisan package will ensure more critical medical supplies are made here in America,” Slotkin continued. “It will reduce our dependence on foreign suppliers by boosting domestic production of critical supplies. It will improve our ability to protect our frontline workers, to respond to this and future public health crises. It will strengthen maintenance and oversight of the stockpile, and give us a comprehensive account of what states have asked for and what they received from the stockpile. And it will do so in a bipartisan fashion, because this virus doesn’t pay attention to party politics and neither should we.”
The bill includes provisions originally introduced as part of Slotkin’s Made in America Medical Supply Chain Initiative, as well as other bipartisan provisions led by Reps. Debbie Dingell, Susan Brooks, Anna Eshoo, Jeff Van Drew, Jackie Walorski, Buddy Carter, Tom O’Halleran, and David McKinley to boost domestic manufacturing of our medical supplies as a matter of national security. Slotkin unveiled her Made in America Medical Supply Chain Initiative after weeks of working with district health care providers to find sources for those desperately needed medical supplies. Michigan experienced dire shortages of personal protective equipment, encountered difficulty in accessing personal protective equipment (PPE) from the SNS, or received supplies that were expired, putting front-line providers at risk. As cases are rising in other states, they are now reporting their own shortages.
The Strengthening America’s Strategic National Stockpile Act combines several bipartisan bills previously introduced to spur domestic manufacturing and strengthen the stockpile, a repository of critical supplies and medicines maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to respond to public health emergencies. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the stockpile has been unable 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 expired our outdated items.
The legislation will, if enacted:
- 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. This legislation will also 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.
Several provisions from Slotkin’s Made in America Medical Supply Chain Initiative were also included in the HEROES Act, which passed the House in May. Slotkin also succeeded in securing provisions related to the initiative into the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 reported by the House Armed Services Committee last month.