During her testimony, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer explained how the Trump Administration created a shortage of supplies and left Michigan without enough testing.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer testified to Congress remotely Tuesday on the struggles states face getting supplies and equipment from the federal government for their fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.
During her testimony, Whitmer broke down the ways the Trump Administration was inconsistent and unreliable. She described a lacking response from the federal government which left states to find their own solutions.
Watch her testify below:
A Stall On PPE
Michigan now has enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to provide medical facilities and first responders with what they need for several weeks. That hasn’t always been the case, Whitmer said.
As The ‘Gander reported, Michigan’s early troubles getting supplies were related to Trump lashing out against Whitmer’s criticisms of how he handled the pandemic.
“When the federal government told us that we needed to go it ourselves, we started procuring every item we could get our hands on,” Whitmer said in March. “What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we had contracts are now being told not to send stuff here to Michigan. It’s really concerning.”
The supply shortages in March were bad enough that at one hospital federal supplies failed to cover a single shift.
“Like with testing supplies, PPE shipments from FEMA have been irregular and unpredictable, and inaccurate information about what to expect has made planning difficult,” Whitmer testified. “President Trump told governors that states should seek out their own supplies on the private market, and yet suppliers were claiming they were being directed to sell to the federal government rather than states.
“As the state pursued PPE on the national and international markets, the lack of centralized coordination at the federal level created a counterproductive competition between states and the federal government to secure limited supplies, driving up prices and exacerbating existing shortages.”
But PPE shortages continue to be a problem. As Michigan proceeds to reengage most sectors of the economy, helping employers provide employees with PPE is essential to preventing a second wave of the virus, Whitmer testified.
Getting More Tests
Whitmer testified that Michigan is finally nearing its goal of 15,000 tests per day and plans to continue expanding toward the goal of 30,000 per day recommended by public health experts. Part of Michigan’s testing strategy, she said, has been a focus on testing high-risk facilities.
Michigan’s National Guard helped testing in those high-risk areas, including administering testing in all of Michigan’s prisons. But, Whitmer said, the state is also pushing for community testing with over 250 sites across the state.
“Testing is the foundation of COVID-19 crisis response,” Whitmer testified. “To safely reengage our economy and resume in-person social activities, we must respond nimbly to new data about transmission and health risks of the virus, which is why our ability to test our population remains paramount. Through herculean efforts, Michigan has made strides in scaling up testing in the state.”
Whitmer was confident that if the federal government could ensure the states had adequate testing supplies Michigan could reach its goals, she said.
Trump, however, left states on their own to secure testing, COURIER reported. States were directed to develop their own testing strategy and were told that the current number of tests were sufficient to contain the pandemic.
Not Enough Assistance
Whitmer testified that states face budget shortfalls over the next three years will reach $765 billion. She called it “economic havoc” that is already presenting Michigan with a budget shortfall of more than $6 billion. Entirely exhausting Michigan’s rainy-day fund will barely scratch that shortfall, she explained.
Despite this, the Hill reports President Trump has been lobbying Congress to deny additional funding for state and local governments as part of the HEROES Act.
“In addition to facing a public health emergency unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes, COVID-19 has also left Michigan and every other state with a fiscal crisis that creates unprecedented budget challenges,” Whitmer testified.
“I appreciate the federal assistance provided to states to date, but more is needed to support our response to this crisis. States are facing budget shortfalls that will require us to make impossible choices that will harm communities from border to border.”
Whitmer said Michigan has seen more unemployment claims in one day during the pandemic than during the worst week of the 2008 recession, and the overall unemployment rate is higher than any time since the Great Depression.
“Without more funding and more flexibility in existing and future federal funding, state and local governments will be unable to maintain existing critical support for education, public safety, and health care,” said Whitmer.