Bill calls for minimum staffing at northern border

U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins 

BUFFALO — U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26), state Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), and state Sen. Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) asked President Donald Trump on Monday to immediately begin the national coordination of emergency supply production, authorized under the Defense Production Act.

The call for action came as New York reached 50 percent of the total confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

In a letter to the president, Higgins wrote, “We are experiencing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the same time as we are seeing cases grow exponentially. There must be a concerted effort to domestically produce and source items like, N95 masks, protective gowns, face shields, and gloves, to protect frontline health care personnel from contracting the virus. It is imperative that our hospitals and health care organizations remain adequately staffed to continue to test and treat members of the public who have been exposed the virus.”

The Defense Production Act gives the president the authority to require or incentivize domestic manufacturers to expand the production and supply of critical materials and goods. The administration can provide loans, loan guarantees, direct purchases and purchase commitments, and has the authority to procure and install equipment in private industrial facilities across the country.

While President Trump signed a Defense Production Act Executive Order on March 18, he has yet to actually direct companies to produce emergency supplies. The president’s order also, allows for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement voluntary agreements with private industry.

"Now more than ever, it's imperative that these critical supplies are reaching our healthcare workers on the frontlines of this pandemic. It's time President Trump require manufacturers to expand production and meet the growing need for these essential resources," Kennedy said. "Governor Cuomo has done a tremendous job navigating New Yorkers through this crisis, but having this federal commitment is paramount to ensuring our state and our nation can continue to aggressively address this growing emergency."

Higgins, Peoples-Stokes and Kennedy said the federal government must act now to deliver critical resources to Western New York and communities across the country. The lawmakers said they had been in touch with local hospitals and emergency responders in urgent need of help.

“Western New York hospitals and healthcare providers are bracing for what could be a tsunami of coronavirus patients who need appropriate care,” Peoples-Stokes said. “Right now, there is real concern that they do not have the appropriate level of supplies to treat and care for these patients while also protecting their workers."

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