Do you remember back at the beginning of the pandemic when China halted all exports? Quickly exposing a large gap in American Made PPE gear and the dependency Americans have on others to produce needed products. Healthcare workers lost their lives because of the lack of PPE available to them. A problem that sent many American manufacturers on a journey to correct.
Fast forward to where things seemed to be calming down in the World, vaccinations had started going out, numbers were decreasing, and purchasing habits went back to preferring lower-cost goods over quality or country of origin.
This thought process of making purchasing decisions has caused American Manufacturers to lay off more than 5,000 employees. They are sitting on stockpiles of masks they cannot get rid of. All while cases of COVID are spiking again.
Washington State and California have both reinstated mask mandates, along with many other states, counties, and cities. Kids are heading back to school and many are required to wear masks. Overall, it is becoming very clear that the pandemic is not going away as quickly as all had hoped. Meaning masks are going to be needed for a long time to come.
“The industry is in a situation where we are needed, there are shortages of masks, but we’re all laying off our employees and sitting on huge inventories of products that we can’t sell,” said Luis Arguello Jr., vice president of DemeTech.
Deme Tech had been the largest mask manufacturer last year. Where did they see the largest impacts? When local city and state governments stopped buying American Made and went back to buying the least costly item.
A win for the industry has come along in the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill. It includes a measure that requires the federal government to enter into long-term contracts with American companies to purchase personal protective equipment. It would also allow the U.S. to sell masks and other medical supplies in its stockpile to public and private entities. Mask manufacturers are still concerned, though, as exceptions were seen in the COVID-19 relief bills that did allow states to use federal funds to buy masks from foreign companies.
The American Mask Manufacturers Association is pressing for stricter standards to be placed on masks purchased by state and local governments, school districts, and hospitals through Congress. They have also hired lobbyists in Washington for the first time. Not to mention, the AMMA is also seeking action from the World Trade Organization against China for subsidizing the costs of face masks.
Currently, the manufacturers who were making masks may have let go of their employees, but they still have the machines. That means they can still ramp back up and get production going. Let’s all push for this to happen by buying American Made and pushing your local municipality, hospital system, and school district to do the same.