A program created by Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has airlifted millions of gloves, masks and other coveted coronavirus supplies into the U.S. from overseas — but it isn’t clear who’s getting them and at what price, or how much private-sector partners are earning through the arrangement.
Kushner’s “Project Airbridge” provides transportation via FedEx Corp. and others for supplies that medical distributors, including McKesson Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc., buy from overseas manufacturers, mainly in China. Once a supplier’s goods arrive in the U.S., the companies must sell half the order in government-designated hotspots. They sell the rest as they see fit.
The U.S. government provides air transportation for free, to speed the arrival of the products. The six distributors keep the profits, if any.
The program has won praise from some states, where officials say it provided hard-to-find supplies at a critical time in the Covid-19 outbreak, even if it met a fraction of demand.
“We are very supportive of Airbridge and other federal programs that can provide PPE to our first-line responders,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis, a Democrat. “But it doesn’t meet our full-needs.”
Other governors and lawmakers have raised questions, saying they have no visibility into how supplies are distributed and the government has only limited power to direct it. The program appears to run largely outside the standard federal channels for competitive bidding, disclosure and transparency — the government hasn’t documented how the products are sold, how prices are determined or which hospitals and other customers receive the supplies.
The House Oversight Committee is seeking answers, and Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Richard Blumenthal wrote to the medical supply companies this week requesting details about their participation in Kushner’s program. “The American people need an explanation for how these supplies are obtained, priced, and distributed,” they said.…