Members of the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Logistics Readiness Squadron work with members of the Maryland Office of Preparedness and Response March 19, 2020, to prepare and load medical supplies and equipment at the Maryland Strategic National Stockpile. All assets provided were prioritized for health care workers and hospitals in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Christopher Schepers)
Update: CREW has received a response from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) indicating they had no records responsive to our request on the criteria used to distribute supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile. Read more here.
The Trump administrations’ unequal responses to states in supplying medical equipment to fight the coronavirus raises questions of whether President Trump is biasing the Strategic National Stockpile’s distribution of supplies.
As the pandemic has grown, the Strategic National Stockpile has received an overwhelming number of requests for supplies, and the disparity in response to different states has been suspect at best. For example, Michigan—whose governor has been outspoken in her criticism of the federal response—has received far less from the stockpile than the state needs to combat the coronavirus, while Florida—whose governor has been praised by the president—received everything it requested. Additionally, HHS Secretary Azar reportedly anticipated the need before the coronavirus had spread to the U.S. and sought $2 billion to buy emergency medical equipment—a request OMB cut to $500 million in a supplemental budget request it sent to Congress.
CREW requested records on the FEMA and HHS criteria used to make distributions to states from the Strategic National Stockpile to address the coronavirus pandemic. CREW also requested all records of communications between FEMA and HHS and the White House on the decision making process for distribution.
The records will shed light on the extent to which the White House failed to take the coronavirus seriously by refusing to adequately fund the Strategic National Stockpile before the coronavirus had fully taken root in the U.S. If Trump is pressuring FEMA to play favorites and delay the delivery of essential supplies to states that are critical of his response to the pandemic, then the public deserves to know how far the president is willing to go, by potentially putting their lives on the line for self-serving political purposes.