DENVER (CBS4) – When it comes to fighting COVID-19 the saying goes, “we are all in this together, until it comes down to supplies.”
“It’s a global free for all,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a update on Friday when asked about making supply purchases in secret.
Last month the governor made claims that FEMA swooped in to obtain ventilators he thought were coming to Colorado. He says now they’re careful to keep all purchases under wraps.
“We are worried about them and other states cutting us off at the manufacture or during the supply chain or customs,” Polis said.
CBS4 asked Dr. Robert Preuhs, a professor of Political Science at Metro State University of Denver, to weigh in on the comments made.
“What states have been doing is interacting with private sector and doing what capitalist or free market (entities) would do,” Preuhs said. “Looking for the highest bidder, paying highest price and then keeping for themselves.”
Preuhs said the Defense Production Act, if invoked in an emergency situation, does give the federal government priority for supplies, but sometimes it’s just business.
“Keep in mind we have companies that are telling states that FEMA swooped in and took all these things when they are probably making a little bit of calculation based on their own profit margins as well,” he said.
The more than 100,000 testing kits Colorado secured from South Korea is just one example of a deal that came down to relationships.
CBS4’s Shaun Boyd spoke with the ambassador about that shipment.
“We received so many requests from around the world, that is why we just particularly focused on the state of Colorado because of the close relationship with Senator Gardner,” he told Boyd over the phone.
“That’s why we send delegations to other countries to get know their systems and who you need to talk with to get these kind of deals to happen,” Preuhs said.
As for Polis, he said rather than risk any interception, Colorado will stay quiet about their purchases until they are on the ground.
FEMA responded to the Governors comments with the following statement:
“FEMA is not seizing or taking personal protective equipment (PPE) from state or local governments, hospitals, or anyone lawfully engaged in acquiring or distributing PPE.
The perception that FEMA is “out-bidding” states and others for supplies is incorrect. Due the use of priority ratings in the Defense Production Act to reallocate critical resources, federal government requirements are put ahead of other orders so we can best assist areas most in need of supplies. As FEMA processes orders through the supply chain we maintain close coordination with states to identify potential bidding conflicts. If a bidding conflict occurs, we work closely with the state or tribe to resolve it in a way that best serves their needs.
If a governor believes that this has happened to their supplies, it should continue to be reported to the FEMA Region.”