Delivering Relief to Michigan and Confronting the Coronavirus Pandemic
As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Gary’s first priority is protecting the health and safety of Michiganders. Long before Coronavirus began spreading in the United States, Gary pressed the Department of Homeland Security to provide details on the Administration’s plan to protect the American people during a potential outbreak. In a report released in December 2019, Gary raised the alarm about our nation’s overreliance on foreign manufacturers for key medications and supplies, and urged action to address vulnerabilities in the American medical supply chain – vulnerabilities that have been increasingly heightened because of the pandemic. Gary called on the Trump Administration to fully fund pandemic preparedness and response efforts, reappoint a global health security expert to the National Security Council, and to reimburse states and localities for costs incurred while responding to the Coronavirus outbreak – all before the first confirmed case of community spread within the United States.
During this pandemic, Gary has worked to support families, small businesses, health care providers, and local governments in Michigan –while continuing thorough and careful oversight of the Trump Administration’s pandemic response efforts.
Looking Out for Michigan Workers and Families
Gary helped pass the bipartisan Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which included a provision he spearheaded to significantly expand unemployment assistance for workers who aren’t able to work or who have lost their jobs due to this public health emergency. At Gary’s urging, the final bill included an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits received through July – one month longer than what was initially proposed.
Gary introduced the Free COVID-19 Testing Act, which was enacted as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, to make Coronavirus testing free. He also has called for increased access to testing to prevent the spread of Coronavirus and help in efforts to safely reopen the economy. He helped secure additional funding for testing, including $315 million for Michigan through the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act that was enacted in April 2020. He has repeatedly called on the Trump Administration to reopen health care enrollment to allow Michiganders without insurance to get the coverage they need during this public health crisis. Gary also pressed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be more transparent with their efforts to address existing racial and socioeconomic disparities in their Coronavirus response efforts and ensure vulnerable communities get the help they need.
Gary also proposed establishing a COVID-19 “Heroes Fund” to federally-fund premium pay to help support frontline workers, including health care professionals, workers at grocery stores, food supply workers, home care workers, first responders and law enforcement officers, pharmacists, delivery workers and other essential workers. A provision based on Gary’s proposal passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in May 2020.
Supporting Michigan Small Businesses
The Coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis have taken a devastating toll on countless small businesses in Michigan and across the country, which is why Gary took urgent and aggressive action to support business owners and their employees during this difficult time. The bipartisan CARES Act, which Gary supported and secured provisions in, included $10 billion in emergency grants to provide immediate relief to businesses struggling to cover their operating costs and $350 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program: an SBA lending program designed to retain employees, provide sick leave, and cover business-related costs during the economic disruption. The program, which Gary later helped to expand for an additional $310 billion for small businesses, also includes $60 billion in dedicated funding for small lenders and community-based financial institutions to serve the needs of underserved small businesses and nonprofits, including in rural communities. This came after Gary pressed Senate leaders to include specific funding for small community-based lenders, including Community Development Financial Institutions and Minority Depository Institutions to receive specific funding. Gary also supported subsequent legislation, the bipartisan Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, that unanimously passed the Senate to provide greater flexibility for small businesses receiving Paycheck Protection Program loans.
Standing Up for Michigan’s Health Care Providers
In February, Gary convened a call with the state’s public health officials on how the federal government could support efforts to limit the spread of the virus in Michigan. Following those discussions, Gary announced a three-step proposal to ensure a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment, medical supplies, and hospital beds during the Coronavirus pandemic. He also helped to secure $100 billion in federal funding for hospitals and community health centers as a part of Congress’s third Coronavirus package – helping to cover expenses for Coronavirus response efforts and recouping lost revenue. As part of the bipartisan Coronavirus package enacted in April, Gary pushed for and helped secure $75 billion in emergency funding for our health system, including for hospitals and personal protective equipment.
Gary has also worked to cut the red tape slowing the nation’s Coronavirus response, ensuring that hospitals in Michigan and around the country can obtain the resources, supplies, gloves and masks needed to protect themselves and their patients from the Coronavirus.
Gary also has led the charge to increase domestic capacity for production of personal protective equipment and pressed the Administration to address widespread shortages of this equipment that have impacted health care providers in Michigan and across the country, as well as law enforcement and first responders. He called for the use of the Defense Production Act and helped introduce legislation to strengthen the federal government’s response by incentivizing U.S. companies to manufacture critical medical supplies. The bill would require the president to utilize all available Defense Production Act authorities to mobilize a more effective pandemic response and ensure that state and local governments are receiving critical supplies.
Providing Oversight of Federal Coronavirus Response
The CARES Act also included bipartisan measures authored by Gary to require oversight, accountability, and transparency. This includes establishing the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, a group of agency watchdogs from across the federal government that will audit and investigate the effectiveness of the Coronavirus response and related spending. Gary also directed the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’ watchdog, to conduct similar oversight. He specifically requested that GAO review how Paycheck Protection Program funds were distributed to large companies at a time when Michigan small businesses, including minority-owned businesses, were struggling to access these critical resources. Gary’s efforts will help ensure the taxpayer funds meant to address the pandemic will go to the people who need them most – including families, workers, small businesses, hospitals and health care providers. It will also ensure that this information is available to the public so the American people can see how their hard-earned tax dollars are being used to address this crisis.
Addressing Racial Disparities in Coronavirus Response Efforts
The Coronavirus pandemic has shown how this public health crisis has disproportionately affected minority communities. While African Americans make up just 13.6% of Michigan’s population, they have represented a staggering 33% of confirmed cases and 40% of deaths from the virus. Gary has fought to draw attention to the issue of racial disparities in the Coronavirus response by introducing legislation requiring the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House Coronavirus Task Force to collect and report racial and other demographic data about the testing, treatment, and outcomes of the pandemic. Gary also pressed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to be more transparent with their efforts to address existing racial and socioeconomic disparities and ensure vulnerable communities get the help they need – and later introduced a bill that would help FEMA do exactly that. In addition, Gary announced a proposal to establish a federal grant program to support non-profit and local organizations that will provide resources and information to communities of color during public health emergencies like the Coronavirus pandemic.
Sounding the Alarm on Overreliance on China and Other Countries for Key Drugs & Supplies
Prior to the pandemic, Gary sounded the alarm about our overreliance on foreign countries for critical supplies. Our country’s pandemic response efforts have been hindered by shortages of critical drugs and medical supplies, such as personal protective equipment – highlighting the dangers of America’s reliance on foreign producers, including China and India, for these vital resources.
In May 2020, Gary introduced two bills to address medical supply chain issues. His Pharmaceutical Accountability, Responsibility and Transparency (PART) Act and the Help Onshore Manufacturing Efficiencies for Drugs and Devices Act (HOME) Act would harness the federal government’s power to track data on pharmaceutical manufacturing and coordinate the domestic manufacturing of medical equipment, such as ventilators and PPE. This would help to address vulnerabilities in the medical supply chain and increase capacity for domestic advanced manufacturing of critical drugs and medical devices in the United States. Gary’s PART Act, would expand reporting requirements for manufacturers and require quarterly disclosures to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on critical manufacturing data such as which medications– including active pharmaceutical ingredients – are produced domestically and abroad and in what amount. His HOME Act, would help reduce U.S. reliance on foreign sources for critical drugs and medical supplies by investing in American manufacturing capacity. The bill would establish a Center for Domestic Advanced Manufacturing of Critical Drugs and Devices charged with facilitating investments in advanced manufacturing capabilities for critical drugs and devices throughout the United States.
As the U.S. works to develop a vaccine and treatments, Gary urged the Administration to take immediate action to ensure there is a sufficient supply of needles, syringes, or comparable delivery devices to quickly immunize millions of Americans once a Coronavirus vaccine is developed. Peters pressed the Administration to take aggressive steps now to address future shortages of vaccine delivery devices.
Following reports that Chinese state-sponsored hackers attacked American hospitals and research institutions in an effort to steal information related to the development of a Coronavirus vaccine, Gary called on the Trump Administration to take strong action. By attacking health care providers’ information systems, the Chinese government put the health and safety of Americans at risk. Gary pressed the Administration to take swift action to hold the Chinese government accountable for these breaches, including threatening sanctions, as well as strengthening cybersecurity support for hospitals and research facilities at risk of further cyber-attacks.