America risks a dangerous reliance on foreign markets for PPE without swift federal intervention
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 29, 2021 — The American Mask Manufacturers Association (AMMA) today announced that the majority of U.S. mask companies will shut down in the next 30 days, accelerating the previous timeframe for urgent government action given in the organization’s letter to the Biden administration last month. Forfeiting the critical personal protection equipment (PPE) domestic manufacturing capacity built up over the last year will not only endanger our nation’s public health efforts, but also our national security, the group warns.
“When quality PPE was scarce last year, and our healthcare heroes were forced to go without Surgical Masks and asked to reuse N95 masks repeatedly, AMMA members responded in the most American way possible: as entrepreneurs and innovators,” said AMMA chairman Brent Dillie. “Quickly, with no federal funding, AMMA companies created the capacity to produce 3.69 billion surgical masks, 1.1 billion N95 respirators, and 7,823 well-paying jobs. We need the government to step up with the same sense of urgency before it’s too late.”
As of today, nearly 5,000 employees have been laid off, six AMMA members have ended production of domestically produced face coverings, and companies such as Michigan-based NFI Masks have closed their doors forever. Policymakers must act before the August congressional recess to prevent the permanent loss of jobs as well as this crucial national security supply chain.
“If these mask manufacturers close, it won’t be possible to restart production the next time our government encounters a crisis requiring PPE. Without federal intervention, we won’t even have the machines needed to produce the masks, nor the ability to retrain new employees to operate them,” Dillie said. “Plus, what we’re manufacturing is considered a medical device, which adds further costs and complications.”
Meanwhile, hospitals across the country continue to reuse face masks and other PPE. As recently as June 3, nurses in Michigan report being limited to “one mask per day for COVID patients and… one mask per day for regular patient care.” Too many frontline healthcare, grocery, transportation and other essential workers were forced to do their jobs without adequate PPE, resulting in many lost lives both now and over the last year. This is unacceptable at the current phase of the pandemic, when federal and state governments have access to high-quality, American-made masks that are readily available.
AMMA, however, appreciates Congress for recognizing the lack of domestic PPE manufacturing as a national security threat and commends the Biden administration’s efforts to donate vaccines to other countries as part of a larger global security threat. The recent debate in the United States Senate on S. 1260, the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, was a positive step but more is needed to close the loop holes and other business practices that threaten the very existence of a U.S. market. Legislative efforts to establish a comprehensive Buy American 2.0 that builds on the progress begun with S.1260 type solution is needed but unfortunately, legislative relief will not arrive soon enough to preserve the domestic face mask industry.
U.S. mask makers are also experiencing unfair competition for PPE contracts at home due to foreign suppliers. China’s dumping practices have significantly hampered a viable pathway for a sustainable American-made PPE supply chain, prompting AMMA to pursue filing a petition with the World Trade Organization. Pre-pandemic, Chinese imports, procured by hospitals, were sold for $0.10-$0.20 per mask. In April of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, those masks were sold for $1 per mask. While American manufacturers stepped up to fill the void, China slashed their prices and are continuing to dump masks in the United States for $0.01 per masks, or less, continuing to undercut American manufacturers’ ability to produce reliable, high quality American-made masks for the country.
China’s ongoing efforts to disrupt American manufacturers through state-subsidization allows the country to maintain economic dominance while creating a monopoly within the PPE market. By becoming wholly dependent on foreign-made PPE, which regularly does not meet federal safety standards, it also represents a future national security threat to the U.S.
While market dynamics may change, preventing the loss of America’s mask manufacturing capabilities requires federal intervention before August 1, 2021.
The American Mask Manufacturers Association (AMMAunited.org) is dedicated to bringing strategic mask manufacturing back to America. The association represents 28 manufacturers who answered the country’s call for critical PPE during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when global supply chains failed.