States have been forced to smuggle personal protective equipment (PPE) shipments after the federal government seized orders of coronavirus medical supplies, according to Salon.
While state governors have complained that they had to bid against each other for medical gear, several officials recently accused the federal government of seizing medical supplies ordered by the states.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat, revealed to CNN that the state ordered 500 ventilators, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “swept up” their supplies. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, reported that the federal government “confiscated” the state’s order of 3 million masks.
Salon noted that states have resorted to smuggling in their supplies in hopes of avoiding federal government seizures:
Now, states and hospital officials are concealing shipments of supplies from the federal government in order to avoid detection. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, recently secretly bought millions of masks and gloves from China. He kept the details under wraps, "because we've heard reports of Trump trying to take PPE in China and when it gets to the United States," a source familiar with the situation told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), and a group of House Democrats demanded that FEMA provide documents related to the seizures.
"Officials and health care providers in California, Florida, Washington, Illinois, Oregon, Alaska and Texas have described similar experiences," the House Democrats wrote in a letter to FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor. "FEMA must explain their actions."
They also asked Gaynor to explain “the role of Jared Kushner in managing FEMA’s operational efforts to obtain and distribute” medical supplies.
"It appears that Mr. Kushner is unclear about basic facts regarding the purpose of the Strategic National Stockpile," the lawmakers said, citing Kushner's claim that "our stockpile" is "not supposed to be the state stockpiles that they then use."
The Democrats were "troubled" that Kushner could be "circumventing protocols that ensure all states' requests are handled appropriately."
"We are particularly troubled that Mr. Kushner's work may even involve 'directing FEMA and HHS officials to prioritize specific requests from people who are able to get Kushner on the phone,'" the lawmakers wrote.