PHOENIX — It seems like the wild west when it comes to getting safety gear for our first responders. Cities and states are bidding against each other and governors across the country allege the federal government is disrupting the supply chain.
The City of Phoenix has seen at least two large orders of PPE from two different companies get canceled after they should have been delivered.
The problem is nationwide.
Over the weekend, a Massachusetts hospital chief executive described trying to obtain PPE for his staff.
“Deals, some bizarre and convoluted, and many involving large sums of money, have dissolved at the last minute when we were outbid or outmuscled, sometimes by the federal government,” wrote Andrew W. Artenstein of Baystate Health.
Artenstein said during a PPE pickup, “two FBI agents arrived… and started questioning me” to ensure “the shipment was not headed for resale or the black market.”
FEMA says its “Project Air Bridge” is directing supplies globally to certain medical supply distributors and “hot spots” designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. a Homeland Security task force is investigating alleged price gouging and hoarding, a FEMA spokesperson said.
City of Phoenix chief financial officer Denise Olson tells 12 News the city has not been able to fulfill a PPE order for more than three weeks.
“We’ve had couple situations where the vendor said they could not meet those orders, that they’d been commandeered by the federal government. But then we went and tried to check that, and we don’t know what that means,” Olson said.
Olson says two of those vendors were Minnesota-based Fastenal and the Los Angeles-based Dunn Edwards.
Dunn Edwards denied knowing anything about that claim.
A spokesperson for Fastenal tells 12 News manufacturers of the masks stopped sending them inventory at the direction of the federal government and therefore the company had to cancel its order to the City of Phoenix.
“We were notified that the inventory we were waiting on was either significantly delayed or was not able to come through at all,” said Brooke Misna, VP of Marketing.
“We hope it changes, but right now it’s a bit of a waiting game,” Misna said.
One expert says the federal government has a right to re-direct resources during an emergency.
“They literally can commandeer a good amount of resources that the feds determine is necessary to respond to an emergency,” said Arizona State University law professor James Hodge, director of the Center for Public Health Law and Policy.
“They are in the front of the line,” Hodge said. “If you question the legality of that, you would have to question all the way to the top of the supremacy of federal law over state law in an emergency, and to be sure, federal law generally wins on that question.”
The city says they have a two-week supply of N95 masks, thanks in part to a recent donation. A very large order of masks is supposed to arrive this week, but recent history suggests it’s not a sure thing.