Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General
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Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING LEADS NATIONAL EFFORT TO GET PPE INTO THE HANDS OF HEALTHCARE WORKERS
~ Herring leads multistate coalition of 20 attorneys general in urging 3M to take further steps to prevent price gouging of personal protective equipment ~
RICHMOND (April 21, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. HerringI is leading a multistate coalition of 20 attorneys general in urging 3M to do more to combat inflated prices of N95 respirators and other desperately needed personal protective equipment (PPE). There has been a critical shortage of PPE across the country and distributors have been taking advantage of that and charging higher than normal prices for N95 face masks and other PPE. The coalition highlights that, while 3M has committed to maintaining prices for N95 respirators, distributors and others in the marketplace have been charging unconscionable prices.
Attorney General Herring sent this letter after Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE), a non-partisan coalition of almost 50 faith communities and civic organizations in Northern Virginia working together to strengthen middle and low-income communities, and its parent organization the Industrial Areas Foundation shared their experiences in the PPE market and helped identify additional actions to address the issue.
"Unfortunately during this national public health crisis, our country is facing a catastrophic personal protective equipment shortage and there are some bad actors who are trying to take advantage of that by charging unconscionable prices to make more money,” said Attorney General Herring. "3M has already made significant efforts to address the N95 mask shortage and I look forward to working together with them to ensure that healthcare workers, hospitals, and first responders are able to get the equipment they need at reasonable, fair prices.”
In the letter, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues say "It is crucial that hospitals, healthcare workers, and first responders have access to these masks and other PPE and that they are able to obtain them at reasonable prices so that they can care for patients with COVID-19 as well as others needing medical attention.”
The attorneys general ask 3M to take the following actions, in addition to the steps they have already taken, to try work towards eliminating price gouging of PPE:
- Continue to publish policies prohibiting price gouging by its distributors and cease doing business with those distributors who violate them.
- Create a database of 3M's inventory of N95 respirators for government officials and healthcare providers.
- Make transparent how inventory is being distributed and how orders are being filed.
"Cleaning up the black market is not a victory if the result is no market at all,” said Reverend Kristen McBrayer, VOICE Chair and Pastor of Emmaus United Church of Christ in Vienna, VA. "VOICE is deeply grateful for Attorney General Herring's leadership, and the leadership of 19 other AGs, in getting 3M to respond to this supply crisis and get N95 masks to the frontline workers who need them most.”
"Despite the steps 3M has taken to curb the most extreme price gouging, the fact remains that healthcare buyers across America simply can't find the N95 masks they need at fair prices,” said Bishop Douglas Miles, Co-Chair, Industrial Areas Foundation.
Following Governor Northam's state of emergency declaration, Attorney General Herring has taken many actions to help Virginians navigate the uncertainty surrounding the COVID19 pandemic. Attorney General Herring has:
- Successfully petitioned the SCC to put a hold on all utility disconnections and, in response to a second request from Attorney General Herring, the SCC extended that freeze and suspended all late fees for the duration of the state of emergency
- Reviewed price gouging complaints from around the Commonwealth with his Consumer Protection Section and investigated any potential violations and pursued violators, including sending warning letters to dozens of businesses about which Virginians have complained
- Issued numerous warnings urging Virginians to be wary of COVID19 related scams as well as scams related to the federal stimulus package
- Issued an advisory opinion outlining the authority of public bodies, including local governments, to conduct meetings and critical public business while meeting social distancing needs and important transparency and accountability obligations
- Sent letters to Amazon, Facebook, Craigslist, Ebay, and Walmart urging them to more rigorously monitor price gouging practices by online sellers who are using their services
- Urged Virginians who have lost or could lose their jobs due to the COVID-19 health crisis to evaluate their insurance options to make sure that they remain covered during this unprecedented national health crisis
Additionally, Attorney General Herring has urged the Trump Administration to take many different actions to protect Virginians and Americans during this time including:
- Utilize the Defense Production Act to immediately prioritize the production of personal protective equipment and ventilators
- Provide federal student loan borrowers with crucial emergency protections
- Suspend Department of Veterans Affairs deadlines and debt collection activities
- Instate special enrollment periods on HealthCare.Gov and develop and implement an outreach plan to inform the millions of Americans who have lost or will lose their employer-sponsored health insurance coverage about the Special Enrollment Period available to them through HealthCare.Gov
- Ensure billions of dollars in emergency stimulus payments authorized by the CARES Act go to American families and not debt collectors
- Enforce the CARES Act and require credit reporting agencies to follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act following the CFPB's announcement that it would not enforce the law, leaving consumers at the mercy of unresponsive credit agencies
- Denounce the EPA's March 26th memo that announced a nationwide policy significantly reducing the civil enforcement of federal environmental laws during the COVID-19 crisis
Today's effort and was led by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and joined by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
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