Sen. Joni Ernst

7 a.m., March 20

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said that after hearing from Gov. Kim Reynolds and a number of health providers across Iowa about a shortage of specialized masks and personal protective equipment (PPE), she is calling for the more than $350 million that’s currently sitting idle in the Presidential Election Campaign Fund to immediately be used for equipment for health care providers, first responders and others to guard against COVID-19.

Ernst’s bill would immediately redirect the millions in unused cash from the dormant election fund to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Strategic National Stockpile, to be used to purchase specialized face masks and other personal protective equipment right away.

“As I’ve said, it’s going to take an all hands on deck approach to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve heard directly from Iowa state officials and our health care providers about the need for additional masks and personal protective equipment,” said Ernst, a member of the Senate Small Business Committee.

“Right now, there’s more than $350 million in unused cash sitting around in the obsolete and outdated presidential election campaign fund. This is simple. We should immediately move that money to where it’s critically needed: let’s put it toward more masks and personal protective equipment for the health care workers who are on the front lines of this pandemic.”

What the bill would do

This bill would immediately provide more than $357 million to purchase specialized face masks and other personal protective equipment for health care providers, first responders and others to guard against coronavirus infection.

The supplies would be paid for with the leftover amount currently remaining in an obsolete, outdated and unused program that exists to provide financial support for political candidates, the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. The program would also be eliminated - which is something Ernst worked on previously through her Eliminating Leftover Expenses for Campaigns from Taxpayers (ELECT) Act of 2020.

The money from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund would be redirected to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Strategic National Stockpile, which stores and distributes supplies for emergency situations. Congress has previously transferred funds from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund set aside for political party candidate nominating conventions to the National Institutes of Health to support pediatric research.

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