DHS watchdog launches probe into how FEMA is handling coronavirus
Technicians prepare to run a test of one of the Battelle decontamination systems delivered to Colorado by FEMA and HHS on May 8 in Brighton, Colorado. Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images
The Department of Homeland Security's watchdog has launched a new investigation into how FEMA coordinated with federal agencies to prepare for — and respond to — the coronavirus pandemic.
Why it matters: FEMA is leading federal operations in response to the outbreak and is tasked with distributing vital medical supplies and protective equipment across the U.S.
- Yes, but: When procuring supplies, inexperienced volunteers recruited by Jared Kushner were reportedly tasked with choosing where the equipment should go, per the New York Times.
What they're saying: “The COVID-19 Supply Chain Task Force vetted hundreds of leads for PPE that were passed along to FEMA and HHS. While the volunteers played an important role, they were not FEMA employees," a FEMA spokesperson told Axios.
- The agency said it could not yet respond to the IG's ongoing investigation, as it is not finished.
- FEMA is enabled to "closely coordinate with our federal and non-governmental partners to support state, territorial, local and tribal governments" in response to the pandemic, the spokesperson said.
Flashback: Top vaccine doctor Rick Bright alleged in his whistleblower report that FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services were "passing the buck back and forth" on who should buy more needles and syringes, in response to a shortage.
Of note: The DHS watchdog has also opened a new probe into how Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol are managing the coronavirus among detainees and staff at their facilities.
- CBP has drastically fewer immigrants in custody amid the coronavirus — due to new rules that allow more people to be turned away at the border — and ICE has paused the bulk of its deportation efforts amid the pandemic.
- The HHS and DHS did not respond to a request for comment.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with FEMA's response.