March 31, 2020

Warren Demands Answers from FEMA on Plans to Ensure Massachusetts Receives Essential Medical Equipment

Federal Government has Reportedly Outbid and Seized State's Orders for Personal Protective Equipment and Other Supplies

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wrote to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requesting information on how the federal government plans to ensure the Commonwealth receives essential medical equipment as it works to combat the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The senator's letter comes amid reports that the federal government is outbidding and seizing the state's orders for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other essential medical supplies. 

"Massachusetts state officials are continuing to face federal impediments as they scramble to find essential medical equipment to respond to a public health emergency," the senator wrote in her letter. "This is unacceptable, and I request answers on behalf of the Commonwealth."

Nearly a month has passed since Massachusetts requested emergency medical equipment from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Strategic National Stockpile, and the Commonwealth has received only a fraction of its request. Meanwhile, despite calls from President Trump for states to try to procure additional medical equipment themselves, Massachusetts has been unable to secure supplies after being outbid by the federal government on at least three separate occasions. Even worse, reports indicate that two orders of personal protective equipment and other critical materials purchased by Massachusetts officials have been seized by federal authorities while en route to the Commonwealth.

In her letter, Senator Warren criticized the federal government's failure to adequately support Massachusetts and other states during this crisis-citing its refusal to use key procurement and allocation authorities such as the Defense Production Act-and asked FEMA to answer a series of questions on how it is coordinating the federal government's distribution of essential medical supplies and ensuring that it is not interfering in states' procurement abilities. The senator requested a response to her letter by April 13, 2020.

"Massachusetts public health officials and medical workers need equipment to keep them safe, and the federal government must utilize its authorities to ensure that materials are produced and allocated," the senator continued in her letter.

Senator Warren discussed the challenges faced by Massachusetts and other states in an interview yesterday on WGBH:

"We need the masks and we need them across the U.S., and in a time of crisis, we need somebody in Washington, a single person, who is coordinating that the masks are going where they are most needed today and that we're looking ahead to where they're going to be most needed a week from today, and two weeks from today, and six weeks from today, and plotting out how to get them where they need to be. We need somebody who is using the Defense Production Act to say to these big corporations, hey this is it. You've got to produce masks, you've got to produce respirators, we need them for the lives of American people and for folks who are putting their own lives on the front lines by doing this work. We need the values that direct a president there and we need basic competence in his administration to arrive there and we're getting neither one of those."

Part one of the interview is available here, and part two is available here.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Senator Warren has pressed the Trump Administration to respond effectively to deliver the robust set of resources needed to address this emergency. She recently unveiled detailed plans to increase diagnostic testing nationwide, and sounded the alarm alongside Senator Markey over the Trump Administration's failure to deliver federal support for testing and care in Massachusetts. Earlier this month, she put out a plan for getting relief directly to workers, families, and small businesses, and has fought to prioritize federal aid for keeping workers on payroll and helping hospitals, states and localities respond to the crisis -- before bailing out giant corporations.