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Trump's refusal to use wartime powers to direct scarce medical supplies has left states fighting it out

Don Lee and Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

The idea that "the government would do a better job in building all of this stuff and distributing it ... is a hard claim to defend given the government's track record," said Neil Bradley, chief policy officer at the chamber.

"The folks who actually know how to build things are raising their hand and saying, 'We can do it.' That's happening right now. Companies are doing this," he said.

But switching from normal operations to meet a sudden emergency requires businesses to spend money on new equipment and other needs.

In the past, companies have been reluctant to make such new investments quickly and on their own when they could not be sure they could recover those expenses. The DPA permits the government to give guaranteed loans or install equipment to protect the companies financially.

It also allows the government to control sales and distribution of the new products, to set priorities and assure that supplies go where the need is greatest.

The Trump administration has highlighted a number of companies that have come forward on their own. Pence said Apple was donating 9 million N95 protective masks for health care professionals.

 

Others like General Motors and Ford are using their manufacturing capabilities to help boost production of medical equipment such as ventilators, respirators and face shields, although it will take two to three months for some of the products to roll out of the factory.

"I think they are responding to market needs. It's in their financial interest to do so," said Joshua Aguilar, a Morningstar analyst, referring to 3M's plan to double the production of N95 masks over the next year.

But many state officials, medical experts, and economists have been skeptical that relying on volunteers and market forces would assure that production of emergency supplies were produced quickly enough or in sufficient volume to meet the need. Governors have urged the administration to take control of the distribution of vital medical supplies and stop bidding wars.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has grown increasingly angry as COVID-19 cases have exceeded 26,000 in his state, about half of the infections recorded in the United States. On Tuesday he lashed out at the Trump administration's failure to use the DPA, saying the law was made precisely for a time like now.

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