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Whitmer to testify about "confusion" over PPE in early days of coronavirus pandemic

In testimony before Congress Tuesday, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is expected to slam the Trump administration over "confusion" in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in coordinating the allocation of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the federal government, according to prepared remarks obtained by CBS News. 
 
Michigan was hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with over 57,000 cases since the pandemic began. During the height of the pandemic, Whitmer became nationally known as she enforced some of the strictest lockdowns in the country. 
 
Whitmer is scheduled to testify remotely before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee with Colorado Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat, and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican. The hearing comes as the House recently passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, the latest stimulus package that includes $500 billion to assist states navigate the fiscal impact due to COVID-19.
 
Michigan, along with other states, face looming budget shortfalls, Whitmer is expected to point out, and she plans to call on the federal government to provide more assistance to states.

Her prepared remarks highlight that amid the height of the pandemic, Michigan was directed to receive PPE from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but Whitmer says there was some confusion,  since Mr. Trump suggested states consider buying equipment from private suppliers.

"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," her remarks read. 

"PPE shipments from FEMA have been irregular and unpredictable," Whitmer plans to tell lawmakers, which has made planning Michigan's response to the pandemic more difficult.
 
However, she will also thank the federal government for the PPE it has provided.
 
Whitmer is also expected to call for clearer information and guidance from the federal government on testing supplies. Michigan has significantly scaled up its testing capability, conducting nearly 14,500 tests per day over the past several weeks with the goal to reach 30,000 tests per day in the future. The state is currently on pace to conduct 375,000 tests in May, which is a little short of the goal of conducting 450,000 tests in May that Whitmer outlined on May 11th.
 
Whitmer commended the allocation of funding for testing through the Paycheck Protection Program and the Health Care Enhancement Act and provisions that protect people from testing co-pays. But she'll also push Congress and the administration harder to ensure that individuals don't "fall through the cracks and face out-of-pocket costs" when receiving a test.
 
"A strong, certain guarantee of free testing, combined with an equally strong outreach campaign to encourage Americans to get tested, would go a long way in helping us reach the testing levels needed," Whitmer outlines in the remarks.

Whitmer has repeatedly said over the past month that Michigan needs more federal assistance, since the state faces a projected budget shortfall of $6.2 billion the rest of this fiscal year and the next fiscal year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this week, Whitmer urged Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to "do the right thing and provide states like Michigan with the budget support we need to protect our families." Her remarks note that the CARES Act, the massive coronavirus relief bill that was signed into law in March, does not provide states with the flexibility to address shortfalls in their state budgets.
 
"A broader solution is needed, and Congress must come together to provide it," Whitmer explains in her remarks. "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."
 
Michigan has been devastated by the coronavirus, with over 57,000 confirmed cases in the state and over 5,000 deaths due to the virus. As a result, Whitmer had implemented strict stay at home orders, but the state is currently under the process of re-engaging sectors of its economy. African-Americans in Michigan have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. Whitmer will say that 40% of deaths due to coronavirus are African-Americans, while they make up just 13.6% of the state's total population. She will also mention that the state has a task force led by the lieutenant governor that is studying the racial disparity and aims to eliminate the barriers and implicit bias in health care.
 

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