Ford announced Tuesday that it’s working with 3M and GE Healthcare to produce medical equipment and protective gear for healthcare workers to help address shortages in the fight against the coronavirus.
Healthcare workers around the country have expressed concern about difficulties in attaining enough critical supplies, such as masks, gloves and ventilators, to deal with the influx of patients suffering from the highly contagious virus.
Ford said it will work with 3M to produce a new kind of Powered Air-Purifying Respirator for healthcare workers. A PAPR has a clear mask that fits over the face. Air is drawn in through a tube connected to a pump that filters the air. The PAPR will be made using parts from both Ford and 3M, the automaker said, including fans used in the Ford F-150’s optional ventilated seats.
Ford said it is exploring the possibility of producing the device at one of its Michigan factories. 3M will also make the respirators at its own factory, Ford said.
Ford also announced that it’s working with GE Healthcare to increase production of ventilators, sophisticated air pumps needed by some critically ill coronavirus patients. It is not clear exactly how Ford will help GE to make more ventilators.
‘Working with 3M and GE, we have empowered our teams of engineers and designers to be scrappy and creative to quickly help scale up production of this vital equipment,’ Ford CEO Jim Hackett said in the company’s announcement. ‘We’ve been in regular dialogue with federal, state and local officials to understand the areas of greatest needs.’
The automaker also said it will work with the United Auto Workers Union to assemble clear plastic face shields that protect people from possibly infectious bodily fluids. The Ford-designed masks are being tested at Detroit-area hospitals. They could be used by healthcare workers, but also others, such as store clerks, who must regularly deal with the public.
Ford is also using 3D printers at its Advanced Manufacturing Center to create disposable air-filtering respirator masks. Once approved, Ford said, the company could initially 1,000 masks per month but hopes to increase production as quickly as possible.
Other major US automakers have also made similar announcements.
General Motors said last Friday that it was going to work with Ventec Life Systems to help increase its production of ventilators for hospital patients. On Monday, the two companies announced that Ventec ‘is now planning exponentially higher ventilator production as fast as possible’ as a result of the partnership.
GM said it is also looking into producing the devices at its Kokomo, Indiana, electronics assembly plant.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also said on Twitter that his company could make ventilators if needed.
Last Saturday he tweeted that he had had ‘a long engineering discussion with Medtronic about state-of-the-art ventilators.’
Medtronic confirmed that it has had discussions with Musk.
Musk has not given any specific timetable for producing ventilators, though, and did not say what his companies and Medtronic might do together. Tesla spokespeople did not respond to requests for more information.
‘Medtronic will work with Tesla and others to try and solve this ventilator supply challenge,’ a Medtronic spokeperson told CNN Business in an email. The company also did not provide any information about how Musk’s companies could help in the production of more ventilators.
On Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsom told reporters that Musk had donated 1,000 ventilators. Musk Tweeted later that those ventilators had been purchased from China,
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles also announced Monday it would produce as many as 1 million protective face masks a week that it would donate to hospitals, police and emergency personnel dealing with coronavirus patients.
All four automakers announced last week that they would temporarily shut down production of cars and SUVs at their US factories in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.
Yesterday, the Senate approved the House passed HR 6201, which was the second dollop of COVID-19 related funding relief in the last two weeks and followed an initial $8 billion package addressing immediate health security needs and offering SBA loans for impacted small businesses and nonprofits.
The newly passed second round of funding contains an array of emergency related assistance including:
● $1 billion for Unemployment Insurance operations in light of the strong upsurge in UI claimants;
● Continuation of school lunch programming and enhanced Meals on Wheels funding for seniors;
● Flexibility in SNAP benefits and work requirements;
● Enhanced paid leave and sick leave;
● Full payment for COVID-19 testing of the uninsured.
However, even before the passage of HR 6201, Majority Leader McConnell had already begun making plans for a third, $1 trillion plus supplemental (Supp 3) to address the economic security needs of industries impacted by this crisis. McConnell formed working groups of key Republican Senators to develop policy proposals and worked with the Administration’s point person, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to introduce S.3548, the “CARES Act”, this evening.
The core components of the CARES act focus on:
● $500 billion in direct stimulus to taxpayers;
○ $1200 to each adult earning less than $75k or couple making under $150k and an additional $500 per child;
● $300 billion in federally guaranteed loans to employers with under 500 employees, which would be forgivable and for core expenses such as employee retention, as well as expanded eligibility of lenders able to offer small business interruption loans;
● Provide the Secretary of Education with the power to grant “national emergency educational waivers”, statutory and regulatory waivers from ESSA, HEA, and CTE…if the Secretary deems that such a waiver is necessary and appropriate;
● Revival of the Treasury Department’s ability to use its exchange rate stabilization fund to guarantee money market mutual funds, a TARP authority last granted in 2008;
● $208 billion in loans to distressed industries, including $50 billion for passenger airlines and $8 billion for cargo airlines;
● Expands funding for procurement of medical supplies and equipment;
● Extends the tax filing deadline to July 15th;
● Increases charitable deductions, allowing for an above the line $300 deduction of cash contributions;
● Adjusts the limitations on deductions for charitable contributions by individuals who itemize, as well as corporations. For individuals, the 50% of adjusted gross income limitation is suspended for 2020;
● Waives the 10% early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 from qualified retirement accounts for coronavirus-related purposes.
McConnell chose not to work with his Democratic counterparts until the introduction of the CARES Act and is now seeking to begin negotiations with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Schumer has urged a “four corners” approach to negotiating this bill and has developed his own proposal, seeking $750 billion, divided between $400 billion for “emergency surge” spending and $350 billion for social safety net programs.
Schumer’s emergency surge provisions:
● Massive new investment in public health and health care equipment;
● Immediate aid to states and localities through existing programs, such as CDBG;
● Expanded SBA lending to small business;
● Broad based education funding–from K-12 to assist distance learning, to loan repayment and loan forgiveness for higher education;
● Increased CCDBG;
● Expanded OAA social service funding;
● Emergency housing and transportation related assistance.
Safety net investments:
● Enhanced UI– including for Gig economy workers;
● Expansion of Medicaid;
● Increased SNAP benefits;
● Broader paid and sick leave– as proposed by Senator Murray in an amendment that was struck down in the Supp 2 package.
Schumer has indicated that Democratic support on a consensus bill requires a more balanced approach that assists workers, as well as employers.
McConnell and Schumer will begin negotiations on the specs of a potentially bipartisan bill. McConnell has asked Senators to stay in town, as negotiations are likely to continue through this weekend. McConnell hopes to find a bipartisan compromise, but if consensus is not achieved, he will need the support of nine Democrats, as 60 votes are required to move legislation through the Senate floor and two Republican members are currently unable to vote due to being self-quarantined.
McConnell’s strategy is to send the Senate bill to the House for an up or down vote, limiting the House’s input on this $1 trillion bill– as House members are currently in recess and becoming increasingly leery of returning to DC, particularly after two House members were diagnosed with Coronavirus.
However, Speaker Pelosi has been working on specs for her own Supp 3 bill, requesting Committee Chairs to put forward ideas to her on what should be included in this package. While the bill will not likely be released until next week, its core components are expected to include:
● Additional Unemployment Insurance assistance;
● Expanded Medicaid;
● Additional social safety net assistance for vulnerable populations, such as food and housing;
● Loans for small businesses;
● Assistance to impacted industries.
The exact timetable for enactment of supp 3 is unclear at this point, but both parties in both chambers recognize the need for expediency to address the crisis created by Coronavirus.
Along with the current bills already underway, a fourth tranche of funding is also expected to address a $54 billion supplemental request from the Administration to address shortfalls in a number of Departments, with a specific focus on HHS and Homeland Security. Speaker Pelosi has indicated that she would rather address this request from the Administration in the Supp 3 bill, but is at odds with McConnell, who prefers it to be taken up separately in a fourth package.
Along with the Administration’s supplemental appropriations request, this fourth tranche could include the extension of key social service programming including TANF and Community Health Centers, as well as the potential for a jobs related package focused on infrastructure.
Impact on FY 21 appropriations process
The extraordinary effort to address the Coronavirus has caused the Appropriations Committee leadership and staff to focus nonstop on emergency funding measures, leaving consideration of the FY 21 regular appropriations process left for another day, with the need for a Continuing Resolution to keep the government open past September 30th a virtual certainty.
Special Edition Washington Update
Charter Communications Press Statement
Beginning Monday, March 16, Charter commits to the following for 60 days:
- Charter has significantly expanded access to high speed broadband for households that include K-12 and college students and is working with school districts and public libraries on remote learning opportunities.
- Charter will offer free Spectrum broadband at any service level up to 100 Mbps and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription. Installation fees will be waived for new student households. To enroll, call 1-844-488-8395.
- Charter will partner with school districts to ensure local communities are aware of these tools to help students learn remotely. Spectrum does not have data caps or hidden fees.
o Charter will open its Wi-Fi hotspots across our footprint for public use.
- Additionally, Charter will continue to offer Spectrum Internet Assist, our high speed, low cost broadband program for eligible low-income households.
- Charter will not terminate service and will waive late fees for residential or small business customers who face difficult economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic and will open its Wi-Fi hotspots across our footprint for public use. These efforts are coordinated with the FCC and other connectivity providers through the Keep Americans Connected pledge.
As the country works collaboratively to contain this pandemic, broadband internet access will be increasingly essential to ensuring that people across the country are able to learn and work remotely, that businesses can continue to serve customers, and that Americans stay connected and engaged with family and friends. Charter’s advanced communications network will ensure our more than 29 million customers – including government offices and agencies, first responders, health care providers and facilities, and businesses – across 41 states maintain the connectivity they rely on.
Charter is working closely with federal, state, and local governments officials, community leaders, and alongside others in the industry to ensure we are meeting needs, sharing appropriate information, staying abreast of developments, and maintaining the appropriate access to geographies that may be operating under a state of emergency.
The network is built to sustain maximum capacity during peak usage which is typically in the evenings, so a surge during the day would be well within the network’s capabilities to manage. Charter will continue to closely monitor this dynamic situation, and is well-prepared to continue delivering reliable connectivity. Charter has extensive business and workforce continuity plans in place that will be adjusted as needed to best serve all our customers and employees.