A draft of the Senate’s stimulus bill reveals just how far the government is going to ensure the country is prepared for future pandemics and how it is making sure the US supply chain for food, medical supplies and medicine remains intact over the next several months.
The bill expands funding for the Agriculture Department by $9.5 billion to support agriculture producers affected by coronavirus and includes money to support food inspection services, whether it be for “temporary and intermittent workers” or “relocation of inspectors.”
The draft Senate bill also requires the government to create a device shortage list and orders the Strategic National Stockpile to maintain certain types of medical supplies. The bill asks the National Academies to issue a report on America’s medical product supply chain security.
The draft of the $2 trillion stimulus legislation includes funding and policy provisions aimed at helping the federal government and states obtain the medical supplies they urgently need now to combat the influx of patients with coronavirus. But the measure also includes provisions with an eye toward preventing the US from being caught so flat-footed next time it’s confronted with a pandemic.
The bill includes both a funding boost and new policies to bolster the medical supply chain.
The measure provides $1 billion for the Pentagon under the Defense Production Act, which is intended to invest in “manufacturing capabilities that are key to increasing the production rate of personal protective equipment and medical equipment,” according to a summary from Senate Appropriations Democrats.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will get an additional $4.3 billion through fiscal year 2024 “to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus,” according to the bill text. The funds include at least $1.5 billion for grants for states and localities to “carry out surveillance, epidemiology, laboratory capacity, infection control, mitigation, communications and other preparedness.”
The legislation includes billions of dollars to help prop up the airline industry, but it also includes a provision that could help the US keep up its supply chain in rural areas: The secretary of transportation is empowered to require airlines receiving financial assistance to maintain routes they were flying at the beginning of the month.
“When considering whether to exercise the authority granted by this section, the Secretary of Transportation shall take into consideration the air transportation needs of small and remote communities and the need to maintain well-functioning health care and pharmaceutical supply chains, including for medical devices and supplies,” the draft bill says.
Lawmakers focused special attention on the Strategic National Stockpile in their legislation as well. The stockpile, a reserve of medical supplies held by the federal government for an emergency, has been severely tested in recent weeks. There have been widespread reports that states are getting just a fraction of the masks, ventilators and other supplies they have asked for. The Senate bill includes a provision that adds personal protective equipment to the stockpile, something many states say they’re in dire need of replenishing.
Lawmakers also want to make sure they understand future vulnerabilities in the supply chain. As part of the National Academies study, the bill asks researchers to examine whether the US is vulnerable to critical drug and device shortages because so many materials are manufactured outside of the United States. And the bill gives waivers for the use of certain kinds of respirators during a health crisis.