Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, gave the following statement regarding reports that the Trump Administration -used funding allocated by Congress for the pandemic response for unrelated defense purposes:
“The Trump Administration has failed to use the funding provided by Congress to produce medical equipment and supplies to protect the American people from COVID-19. When the CARES Act was passed in March, I urged the Administration to use the funds provided to carry out the Defense Production Act of 1950 (DPA) for medical equipment and supplies necessary to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in April, Senator Brown and I urged Secretary Esper to use those funds to produce personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 masks, and to use other programs created by Congress to support defense contractors. The Administration, abetted by Senate Republicans on the Appropriations Committee, ignored these concerns, and continued to use those scarce funds to help boost the defense industrial base.
“In July, I and four other chairs of the House wrote to Secretary Esper and called on the Administration to stop allocating DPA funds until they could provide us with a report on what funds they may have used to support production of these key supplies and equipment, and how they plan to meet the growing needs. Indeed, we cited the Administration’s own estimate that the country would need 3.3 billion N95 masks for 2020 to safely reopen, and that the Administration did not have plans to meet those needs. We still have not received an answer to this letter.
“Had the Administration used the full powers of the DPA in April to expand the production of masks rapidly, instead of relying on half-measures and spending the money on defense contractors, we would not be facing the shortages that continue to plague our essential health workers. An August survey of 21,500 nurses found that 68 percent were still reusing N95 respirator masks, putting them at an unacceptable risk. The Trump Administration should be investing public dollars in helping those workers and keeping the American people safe from COVID-19, not lining the pockets of the defense industry.
“That is why Representative Vargas and I introduced legislation that has passed the House to increase oversight and transparency of U.S. government efforts under the DPA and other authorities to provide the essential medical supplies and equipment the American people so vitally need.”