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Yarmuth Calls for Trump-Kushner "Project Air Bridge" Effort to Be Used Solely to Replenish National Stockpile

WASHINGTON– Today, in a letter to the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) called on President Trump to instruct FEMA to direct all incoming equipment from “Project Air Bridge” to the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). FEMA’s “Project Air Bridge” effort was set up to expedite the shipment of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to the United States, but so far all of the equipment brought here has been directed to the private markets, where half of the shipments are distributed for sale within so-called “hot spot” areas and the other half is sold as distributors see fit. As a result, health care providers are being forced to pay exorbitant prices in the open market for necessary, life-saving supplies.

Yarmuth’s letter calls for all goods and supplies shipped via Project Air Bridge to instead be used to replenish the now-depleted SNS and ensure these materials are being distributed in the most efficient and cost-effective way throughout the United States, not just to the highest bidders.

“The problem with this system is that health care providers that are treating COVID-19 patients, but are not in ‘hot spots,’ have been unable to procure needed PPE for their patients and medical professionals,” writes Yarmuth. “The private market supply chain they are forced to rely on is completely broken, with hospitals in every state throughout the country bidding against each other, and against states, for very limited supplies of PPE.  As a result, prices for masks, gowns, and other desperately needed equipment have increased in cost by as much as 1,000 percent. The fact that taxpayers’ dollars are being used to fund Project Air Bridge and that half of those medical supplies are going into the private market where health care providers are forced to pay for these mark ups is nonsensical.”

Recent news reports have detailed the lack of oversight and accountability within the program—led by the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner—and also raised questions about where the supplies are being directed and what prices are being paid for them. 

“As our health care professionals fight to slow the spread of COVID-19, we must also do all we can to ensure that these individuals are equipped with everything they need,” Yarmuth continues. “That should include using the effectiveness of the SNS to allow hospitals across the nation to more easily acquire critically needed medical equipment. By resupplying the SNS with equipment arriving through the taxpayer funded Project Air Bridge, you will help our states and providers quickly receive the supplies they desperately need to keep their communities safe.”

A copy of the letter can be found here, and full text can be found below:

May 6, 2020

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

As a Member of the Kentucky Congressional Delegation, I am writing you to express my concerns over the continued issues surrounding the supply chain for personal protective equipment (PPE) and other critical medical supplies. Through Project Air Bridge, and their coordination with private companies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has helped deliver essential medical equipment from other countries. States and health care providers, however, are still struggling to obtain these life-saving resources. Now that the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) is depleted and not being replenished it is imperative that the federal government take additional steps to more effectively combat this COVID-19 pandemic. I, therefore, ask that you instruct FEMA to direct all incoming equipment from Project Air Bridge to the Strategic National Stockpile.

According to FEMA, supplies arriving through Project Air Bridge’s efforts are evenly distributed between areas severely impacted by a COVID-19 outbreak and private markets. The problem with this system is that health care providers that are treating COVID-19 patients, but are not in “hot spots,” have been unable to procure needed PPE for their patients and medical professionals. The private market supply chain they are forced to rely on is completely broken, with hospitals in every state throughout the country bidding against each other, and against states, for very limited supplies of PPE. As a result, prices for masks, gowns, and other desperately needed equipment have increased in cost by as much as 1,000 percent. The fact that taxpayers’ dollars are being used to fund Project Air Bridge and that half of those medical supplies are going into the private market where health care providers are forced to pay for these mark ups is nonsensical.

The SNS has been the most dependable source of critical equipment during this crisis. Unfortunately, it is depleted, and FEMA is not replenishing it. I believe this is a mistake, and one that can be remedied by sending all the supplies from Project Air Bridge to the stockpile where its established and highly effective distribution system can be used to help solve both issues with distribution and exorbitant prices.

With reports that the next wave of the coronavirus will be far more dire, it is critical that we ensure our SNS is sufficiently replenished before that happens. CDC Director Redfield recently noted that the second round will be even more difficult than what we are currently going through because it will likely coincide with the start of flu season. We need to do everything in our power to ease the strain on health care system, which includes having a fully stocked SNS.

As our health care professionals fight to slow the spread of COVID-19, we must also do all we can to ensure that these individuals are equipped with everything they need. That should include using the effectiveness of the SNS to allow hospitals across the nation to more easily acquire critically needed medical equipment. By resupplying the SNS with equipment arriving through the taxpayer funded Project Air Bridge, you will help our states and providers quickly receive the supplies they desperately need to keep their communities safe.

The results would be a safer medical workforce and a stronger national response. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

         Sincerely,

         John Yarmuth

         Member of Congress

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Yarmuth-Project Air Bridge Letter to POTUS (05/06/2002:31 PMET )
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