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Trio of Congressional Bills Seeks to Mandate Made in USA PPE Production

Congressional pressure is mounting for legislation to mandate that personal protective equipment (PPE) be made in America.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stressed the importance of securing a reliable domestic supply chain of PPE following a tour Monday of the Parkdale Mills manufacturing facility in Gaffney.

On Wednesday, Reps. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) introduced the American PPE Supply Chain Integrity Act. This bipartisan legislation is meant to help end the United States’ reliance on Chinese-made PPE and ensure that hospitals and frontline healthcare workers have access to a plentiful supply of high-quality American-made PPE.

Separately on Wednesday, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced the Protecting American Heroes Act to help increase the U.S. stockpile of PPE and allow for a quick ramp-up of American production in any future emergency.

Brown’s bill focuses on strengthening the Strategic National Stockpile of critical emergency medical supplies like PPE. It would require all supplies in the stockpile to be produced in the U.S., with certain exceptions based on availability and require domestic producers that manufacture supplies to give advance notice before they go out of business.

In May, Graham introduced the COVID-19 Accountability Act that called for a domestic purchasing requirement of PPE for the Strategic National Stockpile. Earlier this month, he introduced the U.S. MADE Act, which also called for strict purchasing requirements of PPE and a manufacturing production tax credit to further spur domestic manufacturing and job creation.

The provisions outlined in the U.S. MADE Act will be included in the upcoming CARES II package being negotiated in Congress. Parkdale Mills is one of the largest cotton yarn spinners in the country and has helped lead a coalition of textile and apparel companies to produce millions of face masks for frontline healthcare workers.

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Speaking to local media at the South Carolina factory, Graham noted that 90 percent of PPE that doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers have used during the coronavirus crisis was made in China.

“We’ve become captive to China–the entire world has,” he said. “So, I have legislation that I’ve been working on with the South Carolina textile industry, really the national textile industry, to bring back the medical supply chain into the United States. The road to bringing back medical supplies to the United States, when it comes to PPE, runs through the state of South Carolina.”

Graham said the legislation includes a $7.5 billion tax credit for companies that will go back into the PPE business to make gowns, masks, gloves, bedding, swabs, “everything associated with caring for people under the pandemic.”

“This tax credit will help revitalize an industry and bring back into the United States that PPE supply chain so that we’ll no longer beholden to China,” he said. “But equally important, we’re going to treat PPE manufacturing the same as making American uniforms for the military. Under the Berry Amendment of the defense bill, there’s a requirement that American military uniforms be made in America. Many of our textile plants in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia get a good piece of their business by making American uniforms. My legislation would put PPE manufacturing under the Berry Amendment so our strategic stockpile would have to be made up of American-made PPE. The goal is to have 100 percent American-made in the strategic stockpile of PPE in the next five years.”

Graham said the bill would mean new jobs and a new market for South Carolina textile manufacturing. For hospitals, doctors and nurses, he said it would mean having a supply chain “in U.S. hands, where we don’t have to beg China or other places in the world for the equipment we need to make sure we can safely fight this virus.”

“I made a promise to myself and the state that I want to end our dependency on China for PPE,” Graham added. “This bill that’s going to be introduced this afternoon in the United States Senate is fulfilling that promise. I could not have done it without the support of the textile industry at large…I am confident [this bill] is going to become law.”

Speaking about the American PPE Supply Chain Integrity Act, Pascrell said the pandemic has exposed America’s over-reliance on personal protective equipment made in other countries.

“In a cruel twist of irony, we are especially dependent on medical supplies made in China, where COVID-19 originated and whose totalitarian secrecy deepened the world crisis,” he said. “Our reliance on non-American-made PPE has crippled our response to COVID from the start. Even as we continue to fight the virus, we must use this painful lesson to change our behavior now.”

Pacrell said encouraging production of medical supplies within U.S. borders will ultimately help the economy, create jobs, ensure higher-grade equipment, and most important, save American lives, adding “this cannot wait until the next pandemic.”

Kim Glas, president and CEO of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), said she believes the bill “will create strong domestic procurement rules to incentivize investment and the onshoring of critical medical textiles.”

“Re-creating the successful domestic purchasing rules found in the Berry Amendment for all federal PPE purchases will not only help our country reduce its overreliance on China for PPE but also provide longer term support for our domestic supply chain that has supplied hundreds of millions of urgently needed items including face masks, isolation gowns and other needed PPE to frontline health care workers,” Glas said.

The American PPE Supply Chain Integrity Act implements the Berry Amendment standard of “100 percent of a product that is grown, reprocessed, reused or produced in the United States” for the purchase of PPE by the Department of Defense, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It also resets the contract level for the Berry Amendment from $250,000 to $150,000 to ensure more PPE is made in America.