COVID-19

Why is it so hard for the government to buy PPE?

Andie Corban and Kai Ryssdal May 11, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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Workers produce face masks at the Thai Hospital Product Co. factory in Bangkok. Jonathan Klein/Getty Images
COVID-19

Why is it so hard for the government to buy PPE?

Andie Corban and Kai Ryssdal May 11, 2020
Workers produce face masks at the Thai Hospital Product Co. factory in Bangkok. Jonathan Klein/Getty Images
Share Now on:
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In the past few months, several multimillion-dollar government contracts for face masks have come under scrutiny. David McSwane, an investigative journalist at ProPublica, spent 36 hours watching one such deal fall apart. Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal talked with McSwane about his article on the role of profit in the market for personal protective equipment right now.

“You have unprecedented demand and very little supply,” McSwane said. To profit from that demand, McSwane said, brokers are offering to connect contractors to the face mask supply chain.

“That contractor is weeding through all of these intermediaries who are making big promises, folks who say they have somebody with masks or somebody in China. In the end, for our contractor in this story, navigating that just proved too much and his deal fell through.”

Click the audio player above to hear the interview.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Which businesses are allowed to reopen right now? And which businesses are actually doing so?

As a patchwork of states start to reopen, businesses that fall into a gray area are wondering when they can reopen. In many places, salons are still shuttered. Bars are mostly closed, too, although restaurants may be allowed to ramp up, depending on the state. “It’s kind of all over the place,” said Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Will you be able to go on vacation this summer?

There’s no chance that this summer will be a normal season for vacations either in the U.S. or internationally. But that doesn’t mean a trip will be impossible. People will just have to be smart about it. That could mean vacations closer to home, especially with gas prices so low. Air travel will be possible this summer, even if it is a very different experience than usual.

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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