WASHINGTON, D.C. – As COVID-19 infections continue to surge in Wisconsin and across America, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) helped introduce lifesaving legislation to manufacture and distribute high-quality, reusable masks to everyone in America. This bill was introduced today by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17).
“From essential workers to community members, widespread access to personal protective equipment is still dangerously limited, including access to high-quality, reusable masks. If the government is going to tell Americans to wear face coverings in public, we should provide masks to taxpayers at no cost,” said Senator Baldwin. “This isn’t a political issue, it’s a public health issue. Our legislation is about protecting the health and safety of yourself, and those around you, by making sure everyone has access to a mask. Together, we will get through this and save lives.”
“We are the only high-income country in the world where infections and deaths are skyrocketing instead of falling. Nearly 150,000 are dead and 1,000 more are dying every day. That is an absolute scandal,” said Senator Sanders. “Dozens of my colleagues and I are proposing that we do what our public health experts and scientists say we must do. This is not a political or partisan issue. Providing all of our people with high-quality, reusable masks without cost could save tens of thousands of lives and avoid hundreds of billions of dollars in economic harm.”
“If we can afford a $740 billion defense budget, we can afford to send every American a face mask,” said Representative Khanna. “We are the wealthiest country on earth, yet our health care workers are still facing a shortage of N-95s, our essential workers are having to purchase their own protective face masks, and far too many vulnerable Americans are being left to figure out how to procure this basic need. Congress has a responsibility to step up where the White House has abdicated its responsibility and ensure every family has the equipment they need to stay safe. If we’re asking folks to wear a mask, which is absolutely essential, it’s on us to provide one.”
According to one estimate, widespread mask wearing could save over 40,000 American lives by November 1, while another analysis found that reducing the spread of the coronavirus through widespread mask-wearing could save the country up to $1 trillion by allowing the U.S. to avoid strict lockdown measures.
This proposal, developed in consultation with health experts including Andy Slavitt, the former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under President Obama, would use the United States Postal Service to distribute three free, reusable masks to every person in the country, including individuals who are experiencing homelessness or living in group settings such as prisons, shelters, college dorms, and assisted living facilities.
“This bill is an example of Congress at its best: A common-sense, low-cost solution that saves American lives without introducing needless partisanship,” said Slavitt. “At this point I don’t think there’s a prominent expert in the world who doesn’t think masks for all is a good and necessary idea. I am among many who believe American innovation and the Defense Production Act are critical pieces to unlock.”
In addition, the legislation provides pick-up sites for additional masks at convenient community locations that are already providing essential services, such as Post Offices, pharmacies, schools, public transportation stations, and COVID-19 testing sites. Finally, the bill would provide needed surgical masks and N-95 respirators to all workers in health settings. To do this, the Masks for All Act would use all available authorities, including the Defense Production Act.
The bill has been endorsed by the African American Health Alliance, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Association of Flight Attendants (AFA- CWA), the Arc of the United States, the Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI), Communications Workers of America (CWA), Democracy for America (DFA), First Focus Campaign For Children, Indivisible, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Little Lobbyists, Make the Road NY, Morehouse School of Medicine, MoveOn, National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), National Center for Transgender Equality, National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), National Medical Association, National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPHMU), People’s Action, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), Public Citizen, the Satcher Health Leadership Institute, Social Security Works, United We Dream, and Working Families Party (WFP).
Cosponsoring the legislation in the Senate include Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gary Peters (D-MI), as well as Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Doug Jones (D-AL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
You can read the full bill text here.
To read a summary of the bill, click here.
To read a section-by-section outline of the bill, click here.