TRENTON, N.J. – A shortage of personal protective equipment at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic proved to be one of the state’s biggest public health challenges. A bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman BettyLou DeCroce, preventing such a crisis and encouraging manufacturing in New Jersey passed the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee today.
“Without the proper protective gear at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, our essential and frontline workers were put in precarious positions,” said DeCroce (R-Morris). “We need to make sure this never happens again by making the process easier for manufacturers to start producing PPE and creating a plan to stockpile the equipment in the state.”
DeCroce’s bill (A4811) requires the state to create stockpiles of federally-approved PPE and New Jersey Office of Emergency Management-approved PPE. It will also allow the agency to grant approval to businesses to create PPE.
New Jersey manufacturers like Suuchi Inc., a supply chain platform, and Eclipse, which makes mattresses, retooled operations to produce masks, gowns, gloves and other protective gear during the pandemic.
“We shouldn’t solely rely on the federal government to approve New Jersey businesses transitioning from manufacturing one type of product to producing much-needed personal protective equipment,” said DeCroce. “If the state’s Office of Emergency Management had that authority we would have been in a much better place.”
In times of public health emergencies, equipment in the stockpiles would be available to the state and municipalities. Private entities could purchase the supplies at market price and non-profits would receive a discount—paying 75 percent of market price.
“Employers and employees need N95 masks, face shields, medical gloves and gowns if we are going to mitigate the spread of this virus and get people back to work,” said DeCroce. “We have capable and successful manufacturers that can produce those supplies right here. We should be helping keep them in business so we can get the economy back on track.”
To the extent feasible, 50 percent of each stockpile will consist of PPE made in New Jersey and at least 66 percent of each stockpile will consist of PPE made in the United States.