June 26, 2020

Senator Hassan Leads Homeland Security Committee Democrats in Calling for Answers on Strategic National Stockpile

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) led Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-MI) and fellow HSGAC Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) in calling for answers from the administration about the Strategic National Stockpile, which is maintained by the federal government to rapidly distribute personal protective equipment and other critical medical supplies during public health emergencies. Senator Hassan serves as the Ranking Member on the HSGAC Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management. 

 

“Recent reports indicate that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working to replenish the Stockpile’s depleted reserves, but the agency has not provided adequate transparency on what the Stockpile currently holds or what targets are for supplies going forward,” wrote the Senators. “The administration more broadly has failed to provide requested information about how personal protective equipment and other critical supplies are being prioritized and distributed, including how the administration is balancing current needs on the ground with stocking up on supplies for the future.”

 

Citing the continued growth in cases in the U.S., the Senators discuss the importance of state and local governments knowing what medical supplies may be available to them from the Strategic National Stockpile to aide in their public health efforts.

 

The Senators are seeking answers from the Department of Health and Human Services on the current contents of the Strategic National Stockpile, plans to restock it while also providing necessary supplies to states, use of the Defense Production Act to address supply needs, and how the administration will make decisions about Strategic National Stockpile distribution.

 

The letter follows a HSGAC hearing earlier this week, in which Senator Hassan questioned the witnesses on what more needs to be done to ensure that the Strategic National Stockpile is well-managed and includes the necessary supplies to better respond to public health crises.

 

Read the Senators’ letter here or below:   

 

Dear Secretary Azar:

 

We write to seek information about ongoing efforts to increase supplies available in the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) as the country continues to grapple with the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Recent reports indicate that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working to replenish the Stockpile’s depleted reserves, but the agency has not provided adequate transparency on what the Stockpile currently holds or what targets are for supplies going forward. The administration more broadly has failed to provide requested information about how personal protective equipment and other critical supplies are being prioritized and distributed, including how the administration is balancing current needs on the ground with stocking up on supplies for the future. COVID-19 cases are increasing in most states compared with the prior week, and seven states have recently reported a record high in hospitalizations. As the United States continues to lead the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths and widespread concerns about a second wave continue, your department must provide more information about what supplies exist and what the country will need so that states know what they should expect from the federal government in the months ahead. Without this critical information, it is impossible for state, local, tribal, and territorial partners to plan and respond to growing outbreaks. Delays in action and information sharing could lead to continued shortages of personal protective equipment and medical supplies, and these shortages may, once again, lead to overwhelming the health care system and result in countless deaths that could have been prevented.

 

To that end, we request your expeditious response to the following questions:

 

  1. What are the current quantities of personal protective equipment in the SNS available for distribution?

 

  1. What is HHS’s plan for restocking on supplies that were depleted in the first six months of 2020? Please include target dates and quantities for specific categories of supplies required to safely respond to COVID-19 including, but not limited to, N95 respirators, surgical masks, face shields, nitrile gloves, and other protective clothing, as well as ventilators and pharmaceuticals.

 

  1. How is HHS balancing the need to supply those currently facing immediate deficiencies of personal protective equipment and medical supplies with the requirement to prepare for a potential future increase in infections?

 

  1. How is HHS utilizing the Defense Production Act to ensure that targets for restocking the SNS are met?

 

  1. Going forward, how will HHS and the Unified Coordination Group (UCG) determine which jurisdictions will receive PPE from the SNS? Specifically, what factors will determine the distribution formula from the SNS?

 

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