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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "federal emergency management agency"

Trump to Visit California After Criticism Over Silence on Wildfires

Westlake Legal Group trump-to-visit-california-after-criticism-over-silence-on-wildfires Trump to Visit California After Criticism Over Silence on Wildfires Wildfires United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Polls and Public Opinion Newsom, Gavin Fires and Firefighters federal emergency management agency Biden, Joseph R Jr
Westlake Legal Group 12dc-trump-pix-sub-facebookJumbo Trump to Visit California After Criticism Over Silence on Wildfires Wildfires United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Presidential Election of 2020 Polls and Public Opinion Newsom, Gavin Fires and Firefighters federal emergency management agency Biden, Joseph R Jr

WASHINGTON — After weeks of public silence about the wildfires devastating the West Coast, President Trump scheduled a visit to California on Monday, where he will join local and federal fire and emergency officials for a briefing on the crisis.

The announcement of the visit, which was added to a three-day campaign swing through Nevada and Arizona, came after Mr. Trump tweeted Friday night thanking the firefighters and emergency medical workers. It was the president’s first acknowledgment in almost a month of a wildfire season that so far has claimed 17 lives and destroyed millions of acres of land in California, Oregon and Washington.

“I have approved 37 Stafford Act Declarations, including Fire Management Grants to support their brave work,” Mr. Trump wrote, referring to an act that frees up federal funds and other resources to help supplement state and local efforts. “We are with them all the way!” Notably absent was any mention of residents who have been living under smoke-filled skies, many forced to evacuate their homes in the middle of a pandemic.

Mr. Trump’s silence has been more noticeable because of his outspokenness over the past week on many other subjects that advisers believe could have a more direct effect on his standing in the polls against his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

On Labor Day, for instance, Mr. Trump held a news conference to herald the improvements in the economy and defend himself after The Atlantic published a report that said the president had made disparaging remarks about the military’s service members. At two rallies in Michigan and North Carolina, Mr. Trump made inflated and inaccurate statements about his own accomplishments as he campaigned in critical battleground states. And on Twitter, he has attacked Democrats and protesters while promoting false claims about the dangers of mail-in voting.

The wildfires — which have created apocalyptic images of orange-hued skies, and served as a reminder of the consequences of climate change — have not come up in any of his public remarks in weeks.

In one of the last times he mentioned the fires, he blamed the state of California for its forest management. “I said you’ve got to clean your floors, you got to clean your forests,” he said at a Pennsylvania rally in August. He added, “Maybe we’re just going to have to make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.”

A statement released by Mr. Biden on Saturday underscored all that the president himself had left unsaid.

“To the families who have lost everything; to the people forced to evacuate their homes; to the brave firefighters and first responders risking their lives to protect their neighbors — please know that we stand with you now,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Trump has long clashed with California. The state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, has filed multiple lawsuits against the Trump administration, on issues like immigration, health care and environment policy. For its part, the administration has never appeared to hold back in confronting the state, and the president last year publicly blamed Gov. Gavin Newsom of California for a succession of wildfires and power outages that battered the state.

Democratic lawmakers from California suggested Mr. Trump was uninterested in helping a blue state. “There’s a deep feeling that you get different treatment in this administration, in terms of speed and attention, based on how people have voted,” Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles said in an interview on Saturday. He credited the Federal Emergency Management Agency with coordinating closely with local officials but described the administration’s overall response as inconsistent.

“If someone calls my office for help, I don’t ask for their political affiliation or how their neighborhood voted,” Mr. Garcetti said. “It would be refreshing to have a president who thought the same way when people are losing their homes and everything they ever had. He doesn’t blame the Gulf Coast for hurricanes, but he blames California for not raking?”

White House officials said on Saturday that the president was actively engaged in addressing the crisis and had offered assistance to California and Oregon.

Answering questions from reporters on Friday, Mr. Newsom said that during a 30-minute phone call a day earlier devoted to the wildfires, the president had “reinforced his commitment to our effort.”

A White House spokesman, Judd Deere, said the president was closely monitoring the affected areas like California and had pledged federal relief, in addition to approving a disaster declaration. The administration has also deployed more than 26,000 federal personnel and 230 helicopters to the region, Mr. Deere said. A spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget did not respond to a request for a total figure of how much federal funding the administration has provided those states.

Just before the White House announced Mr. Trump’s plans to visit to California, Mr. Deere also defended the president’s decision to stay away from the affected areas, noting that a trip to survey the damage would divert resources from fighting the wildfires.

The behind-the-scenes aid, and the work of agencies like FEMA, has not stopped some people from criticizing the president’s response.

Lori Lodes, the executive director of Climate Power 2020, wrote on Twitter, “I know I shouldn’t be surprised by anything anymore but the fact Trump and his administration haven’t said A SINGLE WORD about the fires ravaging the west is enraging.”

Miles Taylor, a former senior official at the Department of Homeland Security appointed by Mr. Trump, said recently that he witnessed the president seeking to cut off federal funding for California to combat wildfires simply because it is a Democratic stronghold.

“He told us to stop giving money to people whose houses had burned down from a wildfire because he was so rageful that people in the state of California didn’t support him, and that politically, it wasn’t a base for him,” Mr. Taylor, who served in the administration from 2017 to 2019, said in an advertisement by a group supporting Mr. Biden’s candidacy.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

A Climate Reckoning in Wildfire-Stricken California

Westlake Legal Group a-climate-reckoning-in-wildfire-stricken-california A Climate Reckoning in Wildfire-Stricken California Wildfires Global Warming federal emergency management agency Environmental Protection Agency California

SAN FRANCISCO — Multiple mega fires burning more than 3 million acres. Millions of residents smothered in toxic air. Rolling blackouts and triple-digit heat waves. Climate change, in the words of one scientist, is smacking California in the face.

The crisis facing the nation’s most populous state is more than just an accumulation of individual catastrophes. It’s also an example of something climate experts have long worried about, but which few expected to see so soon: a cascade effect, in which a series of disasters overlap, triggering or amplifying each other.

“You’re toppling dominoes in ways that Americans haven’t imagined,” said Roy Wright, who directed resilience programs for the Federal Emergency Management Agency until 2018 and grew up in Vacaville, Calif., near one of this year’s largest fires so far. “It’s apocalyptic.”

The same could be said for the entire West Coast this week, to Washington and Oregon, where towns were decimated by infernos as firefighters were stretched to their limits.

California’s simultaneous crises illustrate how the ripple effect works. A scorching summer led to dry conditions never before experienced. That aridity helped make the season’s wildfires the biggest ever recorded. Six of the 20 largest wildfires in California history have occurred this year.

If climate change was a somewhat abstract notion a decade ago, today it is all too real for Californians. The intensely hot wildfires are not only chasing thousands of people from their homes but causing dangerous chemicals to leach into drinking water. Excessive heat warnings and suffocating smoky air have threatened the health of people already struggling during the pandemic. And the threat of more wildfires has led insurance companies to cancel homeowner policies and the state’s main utility to shut off power to tens of thousands of people preemptively.

“If you are in denial about climate change, come to California,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said last month.

Officials have worried about cascading disasters. They just didn’t think they would start so soon.

“We used to worry about one natural hazard at a time,” said Alice Hill, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who oversaw resilience planning on the National Security Council during the Obama administration. “The acceleration of climate impacts has happened faster than even we anticipated.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_176674653_7d9b30fb-cf08-460b-b0e9-49cea75e3cfe-articleLarge A Climate Reckoning in Wildfire-Stricken California Wildfires Global Warming federal emergency management agency Environmental Protection Agency California
Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times

Climate scientists say the mechanism driving the wildfire crisis is straightforward: human behavior, chiefly the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil, has released greenhouse gases that increase temperatures, desiccating forests and priming them to burn.

Mark Harvey, who was senior director for resilience at the National Security Council until January, said the government has struggled to prepare for situations like what’s happening in California.

“The government does a very, very bad job looking at cascading scenarios,” Mr. Harvey said. “Most of our systems are built to handle one problem at a time.”

In some ways, this year’s wildfires in California have been decades in the making. A prolonged drought that ended in 2017 was a major reason for the death of 163 million trees in California forests over the past decade, according to the U.S. Forest Service. One of the fastest moving fires this year ravaged the forests that had the highest concentration of dead trees, south of Yosemite National Park.

Further north, the Bear Fire became the 10th largest in California history — burning through an astonishing 230,000 acres in one 24-hour period.

“It’s really shocking to see the number of fast moving, extremely large and destructive fires simultaneously burning,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability at the University of California, Los Angeles. “I’ve spoken to maybe two dozen fire and climate experts over the last 48 hours and pretty much everyone is at a loss of words. There’s certainly been nothing in living memory on this scale.”

While the state mobilizes to deal with the immediate threats, the fires will also leave the state with difficult and costly longer-term problems, everything from the effects of smoke inhalation to damaged drinking water systems.

Wildfire smoke can in the worst cases be deadly, especially among older people. Studies have shown that when waves of smoke hit, the rate of hospitalizations rises, and patients experience respiratory problems, heart attacks and strokes.

The coronavirus pandemic adds a new layer of risk to an already perilous situation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued statements warning that people with Covid-19 are at increased risk from wildfire smoke during the pandemic.

“The longer we have bad air in California, the more we’ll be concerned about adverse health effects,” said John Balmes, a spokesman for the American Lung Association and a professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco.

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

As for drinking water, scientists have known for years that runoff from burned homes can put harmful chemicals into ground water and reservoirs. But research in the aftermath of the 2017 wildfires in wine country north of San Francisco and the 2018 fire that destroyed the town of Paradise in the foothills of the Sierra discovered a different threat: benzene and other dangerous contaminants were found inside water systems, possibly from heat-damaged plastics in the water infrastructure.

“Communities need to recognize this vulnerability,” said Andrew J. Whelton, a professor in environmental engineering at Purdue University, a co-author of a study on water contamination in Paradise.

“Dangerous chemicals can leach from inside water systems for months after a fire.”

The Environmental Protection Agency classifies water with benzene levels above 500 parts per billion as hazardous. Some samples in Paradise after the fire were found to have 2,000 parts per billion. In Sonoma County after the wine country fires some samples had 40,000 parts per billion, Dr. Whelton said.

Before now, many Californians assumed it would be an earthquake that might knock out their power, damage their homes and render their neighborhoods uninhabitable.

Susan Luten, a retired lawyer in Oakland, Calif., lives near the Hayward fault, an area that seismologists warn is due for a major earthquake. But it is the threat of fire that prompted her and her husband to put their go bags by the door — shoes, a change of clothes, flashlights, whistles, medications, small bills and duct tape.

“We have a rope inside the house in case we have to escape down the steep hillside on foot rather than by driving a car,” Ms. Luten said. Her husband studied Google maps for escape routes.

Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times

The whiplash of the multiple crises in California has played out in their living room.

“Two days ago we were roasting inside with the windows closed in a heat wave to avoid heavy smoke,” Ms. Luten said.

“Today we are cool, but unable to see across the street,” she said on Wednesday, when the entire San Francisco Bay Area was shrouded in a faint orange glow, the sun obscured by massive columns of smoke in the atmosphere. “Combine all of this with a pandemic and political menace and it’s hard not to think we are unwitting bit players in some sort of end-of-days movie.”

Emily Szasz, a graduate art history student from Santa Cruz, says she feels like she’s in a strange, unfamiliar land.

“I feel as though I’m somewhere I’ve never been before,” Ms. Szasz said. “There were wildfires occasionally throughout my life here, which would be quickly fought and contained. Never do I remember 23 straight days of orange, oppressive, smoky skies, leaving my house in fear that I’d never return to it, or knowing someone whose home burned down in the mountains near my house.”

Several years ago, as a student at the University of California, Berkeley, a professor explained that California and the West were likely to experience the effects of climate change sooner than the rest of the country, Ms. Szasz said. The words now resonate with her.

“There is no greater proof, nor should we require it, that climate change is here and is changing our lives,” Ms. Szasz said of the wildfires. “I am only 25 years old and I do not know what future there is for me, let alone my potential children and grandchildren.”

Even after this year’s fires are put out, their ripple effects will keep spreading, creating economic shocks — in the insurance industry and with the state’s power grid, to name two examples — well beyond the physical and health damage of the disasters themselves.

This summer millions of Californians’ homes went dark for an hour or more as the smothering summer heat threatened to overload the grid.

Those blackouts are separate from the pre-emptive shut-offs carried out by California utilities in an effort to prevent their equipment from sparking wildfires. This week, PG&E turned off power to about 170,000 customers — a continuation of a program launched last year of massive power shut-offs.

In the insurance industry, years of heavy losses have pushed companies to pull back from fire-prone areas, in what state officials call a crisis of its own. A lack of affordable insurance threatens to devastate housing markets, by making homes less valuable and harder to sell.

Rex Frazier, president of the Personal Insurance Federation of California, which represents insurers, said the industry is now waiting to see how big this year’s losses are, and what the state does next.

“We have to use it as a clarion call,” said Mr. Wright, the former FEMA official who is now president of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, an industry-funded group that looks at how to reduce damage from disasters. “What we can’t do is simply cover our ears, hunker down and go, ‘I just want this to go away.’”

Philip B. Duffy, a climate scientist who is president of the Woodwell Climate Research Center, says many people do not understand the dynamics of a warming world.

“People are always asking, ‘Is this the new normal?” he said. “I always say no. It’s going to get worse.”

Thomas Fuller reported from San Francisco, and Christopher Flavelle from Washington. Ivan Penn contributed reporting from Burbank, Calif., and John Schwartz from West Orange, N.J.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Unemployment Claims Are ‘Stubbornly High’ as Layoffs Persist

Westlake Legal Group unemployment-claims-are-stubbornly-high-as-layoffs-persist Unemployment Claims Are ‘Stubbornly High’ as Layoffs Persist United States Economy Unemployment Insurance Unemployment States (US) Layoffs and Job Reductions Labor Department (US) Labor and Jobs federal emergency management agency Federal Aid (US) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

Just over one million Americans filed new claims for state jobless benefits last week, the latest sign that the economy is losing momentum just as federal aid to the unemployed has been pulled away.

Weekly claims briefly dipped below the one million mark earlier this month, offering a glimmer of hope in an otherwise gloomy job market. But filings jumped to 1.1 million the following week, and stayed above one million last week, the Labor Department said Thursday.

“It’s devastating how stubbornly high initial claims are,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at the employment site ZipRecruiter. “There are still huge numbers of layoffs taking place.”

Another 608,000 people filed for benefits under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which offers aid to independent contractors, self-employed workers and others not covered by regular state programs. That number, unlike the figures for state claims, is not seasonally adjusted.





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Westlake Legal Group claims-0827-335 Unemployment Claims Are ‘Stubbornly High’ as Layoffs Persist United States Economy Unemployment Insurance Unemployment States (US) Layoffs and Job Reductions Labor Department (US) Labor and Jobs federal emergency management agency Federal Aid (US) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

Initial weekly unemployment claims,

both regular and those under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program

1.0 million regular claims last week after rising above 1 million the week before

Westlake Legal Group claims-0827-600 Unemployment Claims Are ‘Stubbornly High’ as Layoffs Persist United States Economy Unemployment Insurance Unemployment States (US) Layoffs and Job Reductions Labor Department (US) Labor and Jobs federal emergency management agency Federal Aid (US) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

Initial weekly unemployment claims, both regular and those under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program

1.0 million regular claims last week after rising above 1 million the week before


Pandemic Unemployment Assistance extends eligibility to some workers who would not otherwise be able to apply for unemployment benefits, such as part-time and self-employed workers. Regular claims are seasonally adjusted but P.U.A. claims are not.

Source: Labor Department

By Ella Koeze

Other recent indicators also suggest that the recovery is faltering. Job growth slowed in July, and real-time data from private-sector sources suggests that hiring has slumped further in August. On Tuesday, American Airlines said it would furlough 19,000 workers on Oct. 1, the latest in a string of such announcements from major corporations.

“It is worrying because it does signal that these large companies are pessimistic about the state of the recovery and don’t think that we are going to be returning to normal anytime soon,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at the career site Glassdoor.

Unemployment filings have fallen sharply since early April, when 6.6 million applied for benefits in a single week. But even after that decline, weekly filings far exceed any previous period. Close to 30 million Americans are receiving benefits under various state and federal programs.

The continued high rate of job losses comes as government support for the unemployed is waning. A $600-a-week federal supplement to state unemployment benefits expired at the end of July, and efforts to replace it have stalled in Congress. President Trump announced this month that he was using his executive authority to give jobless workers an additional $300 or $400 a week, but few states have begun paying out the new benefit.

Economists warn that the loss of federal support could act as a brake on the recovery. Nancy Vanden Houten, lead economist for the forecasting firm Oxford Economics, estimated that the lapse in extra unemployment benefits would reduce household income by $45 billion in August. That could lead to a drop in consumer spending and further layoffs, she said.

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The benefit initiated by Mr. Trump would use federal emergency funds to provide $300 a week in extra payments to most unemployed workers. (States can choose to chip in an additional $100 a week, but few are doing so.) As of Wednesday, 32 states had been approved for grants under the program, known as Lost Wages Assistance.

Arizona, the first state to turn the grants into payments, sent $252.6 million to about 400,000 recipients last week, a sum that included retroactive payments for the first two weeks of August. Texas this week has paid out $424 million and expects to deliver nearly $1 billion more to cover the first three weeks of benefits. A handful of other states are paying benefits or expect to begin doing so within days.

Most, however, said it could take until mid-September or later.

Once the money starts flowing, it may not last long. Mr. Trump’s order authorized spending up to $44 billion, which federal officials said last week would cover four or five weeks of payments. That means jobless workers in many states may receive a lump sum covering several weeks of retroactive benefits, but nothing more without congressional action.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_173643264_f5dc02f5-179e-41f4-8a9d-5134365c2aaa-articleLarge Unemployment Claims Are ‘Stubbornly High’ as Layoffs Persist United States Economy Unemployment Insurance Unemployment States (US) Layoffs and Job Reductions Labor Department (US) Labor and Jobs federal emergency management agency Federal Aid (US) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Credit…Bryan Woolston/Reuters

On the surface, the new lost wages program looks like the earlier $600-a-week federal supplement, just cut in half. But there are subtle differences: The program has a different funding source (the Federal Emergency Management Agency instead of the Labor Department) and new restrictions (people receiving less than $100 a week in regular benefits don’t qualify).

Those kinds of adjustments would be trivial on a modern computer system. But many state unemployment systems are running on computers that are anything but modern.

In Oklahoma, for example, the unemployment system uses a 40-year-old mainframe computer that turns even minor adjustments into a major programming task. As a result, even though the state was among the first to apply for the $300 benefit this month, it doesn’t expect to begin paying the new benefit until late September.

”The fact that I’m working with a mainframe from 1978 to process claims is just crippling to the agency,” said Shelley Zumwalt, interim executive director of the agency that oversees Oklahoma’s unemployment system. “We are just holding that system together with masking tape and chewing gum.”

When the pandemic hit, Arizona, too, was stuck with archaic computer systems. It built a new system virtually from scratch to begin paying out federally funded emergency benefits, and it was among the last states to do so.

But the approach left Arizona better able to handle curveballs like the new $300 benefit.

“Through that chaos, we created a pandemic unemployment system,” said Michael Wisehart, director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security.

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

Christy Miller says there are three things that shape her identity: making people laugh, making people strong and lifting heavy objects. She can’t do any of those right now, and she isn’t sure when she will be able to again.

Ms. Miller, 49, is a standup comedian in New York, where comedy clubs have been closed since March. She is also a personal trainer and an amateur power lifter — activities she has had to give up because gyms, too, remain closed in the city.

The $600-a-week supplement to her unemployment pay didn’t just allow her to pay rent and buy food. It also freed up the time and mental energy for her to learn video production, podcasting and other skills to help her survive the pandemic-driven shutdown of her industry.

“I would give up the $600 a week any day for this coronavirus to go away and get back to work,” she said. “But the $600 has allowed me not to be homeless, to learn more computer stuff that I never would have learned or had the time to learn.”

None of those ventures are producing much income yet, though. She saved as much of her unemployment benefits as she could, and has enough to cover rent through the end of the year. But other bills are another matter. And there is little guarantee that her business will bounce back before her savings run out.

“If they don’t fix this pandemic thing, I may have to leave New York because I can’t afford to stay here,” she said.

Credit…Cody O’Loughlin for The New York Times

Kris Fusco is finally back at work. That doesn’t mean her coronavirus worries are behind her.

When Ms. Fusco’s employer — a small, family-owned business in Massachusetts that rents musical instruments to students — laid her off in March, she expected to be out of work for a couple of weeks. That got extended to April, then to June. Eventually one of the owners called her to tell her they didn’t know when they could reopen.

“I said, ‘You do what you need to do to keep your business afloat, and I’m just going to hold on as long as I can,’” she said. Fortunately, her employer called her back shortly after the $600 supplement expired. She returned to work last week, and, despite some nervousness about going into the office with the virus still spreading, she said she was grateful for the paycheck.

But Ms. Fusco, 50, doesn’t know how long her good fortune will last. With many schools still teaching remotely or canceling activities like band, she worries that her company’s business will suffer. Already, she has noticed a large number of instruments being returned.

“It’s very worrisome for me because I can see the snowball effect from Covid-19 all around me,” she said. “It’s always lurking right behind my eyeballs that in six months I might be out of a job again.”

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U.S. Flood Strategy Shifts to ‘Unavoidable’ Relocation of Entire Neighborhoods

This week’s one-two punch of Hurricane Laura and Tropical Storm Marco may be extraordinary, but the storms are just two of nine to strike Texas and Louisiana since 2017 alone, helping to drive a major federal change in how the nation handles floods.

For years, even as seas rose and flooding worsened nationwide, policymakers stuck to the belief that relocating entire communities away from vulnerable areas was simply too extreme to consider — an attack on Americans’ love of home and private property as well as a costly use of taxpayer dollars. Now, however, that is rapidly changing amid acceptance that rebuilding over and over after successive floods makes little sense.

The shift threatens to uproot people not only on the coasts but in flood-prone areas nationwide, while making the consequences of climate change even more painful for cities and towns already squeezed financially.

This month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency detailed a new program, worth an initial $500 million, with billions more to come, designed to pay for large-scale relocation nationwide. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has started a similar $16 billion program. That followed a decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to start telling local officials that they must agree to force people out of their homes or forfeit federal money for flood-protection projects.

Individual states are acting, too. New Jersey has bought and torn down some 700 flood-prone homes around the state and made offers on hundreds more. On the other side of the country, California has told local governments to begin planning for relocation of homes away from the coast.

“Individuals are motivated. They’re sick of getting their homes flooded,” said Daniel Kaniewski, who until January was FEMA’s deputy administrator for resilience. “It’s not easy to walk away from your neighborhood. But it’s also not easy to face flooding on a regular basis.”

Laura, a Category 4 Hurricane with winds as strong as 140 miles per hour, is expected to make landfall near the Texas-Louisiana border overnight, causing what the National Hurricane Center called an “unsurvivable storm surge” of 15 to 20 feet along parts of the coast and reaching as much as 30 miles inland. City and county officials in Texas and Louisiana have issued evacuation orders affecting about 500,000 residents.

The federal government has long paid to buy and demolish individual flood-damaged homes. What’s different is the move toward buyouts on a much larger scale — relocating greater numbers of people, and even whole neighborhoods, and ideally doing it even before a storm or flood strikes.

Officials’ increasing acceptance of relocation, which is sometimes called managed retreat, represents a broad political and psychological shift for the United States.

Even the word “retreat,” with its connotations of defeat, sits uncomfortably with American ideals of self-reliance and expansion. “‘Managed retreat’ is giving up. That’s un-American,” said Karen O’Neill, an associate professor of sociology at Rutgers University, in explaining why the concept seemed unthinkable until recently.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_175798785_4e0545a1-8c17-47a0-bea4-79c77bd3e0ab-articleLarge U.S. Flood Strategy Shifts to ‘Unavoidable’ Relocation of Entire Neighborhoods United States Politics and Government Housing and Urban Development Department Greenhouse Gas Emissions Global Warming Floods federal emergency management agency environment Eminent Domain Disasters and Emergencies army corps of engineers
Credit…Calla Kessler for The New York Times
Credit…Calla Kessler for The New York Times
Credit…Calla Kessler for The New York Times

But that view has been blunted by years of brutal hurricanes, floods and other disasters, as well as the scientific reality that rising waters ultimately will claim waterfront land. In the latest National Climate Assessment, issued in 2018, 13 federal science agencies called the need to retreat from parts of the coast “unavoidable” in “all but the very lowest sea level rise projections.”

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All of that, coupled with the growing cost of recovery (federal spending on disaster recovery has totaled almost half a trillion dollars since 2005) has led to the realization that some places can’t be protected, according to government officials and scientists. The shift is all the more remarkable for occurring during the presidency of Donald Trump, who has called climate change a hoax and rolled back programs to fight global warming.

The Obama administration began experimenting with relocation after Hurricane Sandy in 2012, paying for programs in Staten Island and New Jersey designed to buy and demolish large numbers of flooded homes to create open space as a buffer during storms. In 2016, it gave Louisiana $48 million to relocate the residents of Isle de Jean Charles, a village that had lost most of its land to rising seas and erosion.

Yet the administration never managed to apply that approach nationally.

In December 2016, just weeks before President Obama left office, the White House created without public notice a working group on managed retreat, made up of senior officials from 11 agencies, to figure out how to move communities threated by climate change. Once President Trump took office, that effort was abandoned.

But that was before Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas in 2017, the first in a series of disasters that much of the country is still trying to recover from. Since then, despite President Trump’s dismissiveness of climate change, the agencies under his control have accelerated their push toward relocation amid demand from households eager to leave vulnerable homes, as well as officials looking for alternatives to endlessly rebuilding in place.

Last summer, HUD detailed a disaster-mitigation program that offers $16 billion for “large-scale migration or relocation” and other steps. North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas have since said they want to use that money to fund buyouts, the purchasing and demolishing of homes exposed to storms, among other things.

For places that can’t affordably be protected, “we’ve got to look at how we prospectively relocate people,” said Stan Gimont, who helped create the program as deputy assistant secretary for grant programs until he left the department last summer.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which also funds buyouts, has begun pursuing them more aggressively. Those buyouts used to be voluntary: Residents who didn’t want to sell their houses could stay, even if the Corps’ analysis said moving made more sense.

Credit…Emily Kask for The New York Times
Credit…Emily Kask for The New York Times
Credit…Emily Kask for The New York Times

But the Corps has recently changed its position, insisting that cities and counties agree, up front, to use eminent domain to force people from their homes to qualify for Corps-funded buyouts.

Joe Redican, deputy chief of the planning and policy division for the Corps, said his agency had found that, in some areas, keeping people safe over the long run was more affordable by purchasing homes than by building new infrastructure to protect them.

The latest evidence of the shift toward relocation came this month, when FEMA made public the details of its new grant program. As with the new HUD program, one way cities and states can use the money is for “larger-scale migration or relocation.” Rather than just buying and demolishing a handful of individual homes, the agency told state and local officials to consider how they would protect whole communities from future harm.

The program, which also pays for building codes, new infrastructure and other projects, “is a transformational opportunity to change the way the nation invests in resilience,” said David Maurstad, FEMA’s deputy associate administrator for insurance and mitigation. “FEMA can now support communities with investing in much larger-scale mitigation efforts.”

In Louisiana, officials describe a new willingness to plan for pulling back from the coast.

“That’s not a conversation that we were comfortable having, as a state or as a series of vulnerable communities, say, five years ago,” said Mathew Sanders, the resilience policy and program administrator at Louisiana’s Office of Community Development. “It’s now a conversation that we can have.”

The project to relocate people from Isle de Jean Charles, which his office manages, offers a blueprint for retreat. After years of sometimes contentious public consultations, construction started this May on what’s being called The New Isle, some 30 miles to the north. All but a handful of households have said they will leave Isle de Jean Charles.

Credit…Emily Kask for The New York Times
Credit…Emily Kask for The New York Times
Credit…Emily Kask for The New York Times

Joann Bourg recently moved off the island into a temporary apartment nearby, paid for by the state, while she waits for The New Isle to be finished. She recalled always needing to keep a backpack ready, for whenever the next storm or flood forced her from her home. “I don’t have to do that no more,” Ms. Bourg said.

“That’s family land,” she said of the property she will be leaving behind. “But I don’t miss all the water. I don’t miss having to evacuate.”

Most residents of Isle de Jean Charles are American Indians. Chris Brunet, a member of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe who still lives on the island, said he initially worried that moving would mean surrendering that identity, which is tied to the land his ancestors lived on. “I wanted to make sure that I could bring that with me,” Mr. Brunet said.

He eventually decided he could maintain that identity in the new community — something he described as a long process of coming to terms with leaving.

On Sunday, Mr. Brunet left his home ahead of this week’s storms. He said most of the other remaining residents had evacuated the island as well.

Isle de Jean Charles is unlikely to be an isolated case. Last year, Louisiana issued a sweeping strategy for its most vulnerable coastal parishes, laying out in great detail which parts would likely be surrendered to the rising seas, and also how inland towns should start preparing for an influx of new residents.

“We don’t have ready-made solutions,” Mr. Sanders said. But talking openly about retreat, he added, can produce “better outcomes than if we do nothing.”

Credit…Calla Kessler for The New York Times

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Unemployment Claims Rise as Rollout of $300 Benefit Lags

Westlake Legal Group unemployment-claims-rise-as-rollout-of-300-benefit-lags Unemployment Claims Rise as Rollout of $300 Benefit Lags United States Economy Unemployment Insurance Unemployment Trump, Donald J States (US) Layoffs and Job Reductions Labor Department (US) Labor and Jobs federal emergency management agency Executive Orders and Memorandums Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (2020) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

The job market shows signs of softening, even as a move by President Trump to replace lost unemployment benefits is struggling to get off the ground.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that new state unemployment claims jumped to 1.1 million last week, a sign that some employers continue to lay off workers in the face of the coronavirus pandemic while others remain reluctant to hire.

“It definitely suggests that momentum in the recovery is slowing,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West. “The labor market is in the I.C.U., and it needs a shot of adrenaline in the form of federal aid.”

There are no signs that kind of boost is imminent, however. Nearly 30 million people are drawing unemployment pay in some form, but a $600 weekly supplement to state benefits — credited with keeping millions afloat — expired at the end of July. Democrats and Republicans have been at an impasse on a new round of aid, and no action is expected before September.

President Trump bypassed Capitol Hill this month to provide a $300 weekly supplement, drawn from federal disaster funds, to those receiving unemployment pay. But by Thursday, fewer than a quarter of the states had been approved for the program, and only Arizona had put it into action.

Florida, New York and Texas have held off on applying as they seek guidance on the program’s rules and mull the technological needs for processing payments. Even states that intend to take part, like Pennsylvania, have raised doubts about whether it is workable.

“The president’s convoluted, temporary, half-baked concept has left many states, including Pennsylvania, with more questions than a clear path forward,” said Penny Ickes, a spokeswoman for the Department of Labor and Industry in the state’s Democratic administration.

Mr. Trump’s executive action caps spending on the program at $44 billion, a figure that officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Labor Department said Thursday should be enough to last four to five weeks. The funds are intended to be retroactive to Aug. 1, so recipients might be paid only through early September.

The previous $600 weekly benefit, in place for four months, contributed $70 billion a month to the economy, or nearly 5 percent of total household income.

“That’s a pretty substantial chunk of gross domestic product,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at the PNC Financial Services Group. “And the households that get it are in a precarious position and pretty much spend all of it. I’m concerned the expiration of benefits will weigh on the economy in the second half of the year.”

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Millions of unemployment recipients are already feeling the loss.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_175177389_c1c36014-36f8-4279-b4a9-10bbe40e59e9-articleLarge Unemployment Claims Rise as Rollout of $300 Benefit Lags United States Economy Unemployment Insurance Unemployment Trump, Donald J States (US) Layoffs and Job Reductions Labor Department (US) Labor and Jobs federal emergency management agency Executive Orders and Memorandums Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (2020) Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Credit…Chad Rhym for The New York Times

“That extra $600 is what’s been keeping us alive,” said David Leske, a lighting and sound technician in Ridgway, Pa. Without it, he and his wife have been forced to dip into their savings account. “It’s scary,” he said.

This should be a time of keen anticipation for Mr. Leske. He works in local schools to make plays, assemblies and other shows come to life.

But a few weeks before the school year is to begin, the pandemic is still preventing large indoor gatherings. In some cases, schools are sticking to online instruction.

“Our local district has no intention of doing school plays,” Mr. Leske said. “The high school auditorium is now a storage area.”

Mr. Leske, 52, said that work began to dry up in March and that the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program — an emergency federal program for freelancers and others not eligible for state benefits — had been crucial in keeping him afloat, especially with the $600 weekly federal supplement.

He expects to be out of work through September 2021 as schools hold off on plays and assemblies. But Pandemic Unemployment Assistance expires at the end of this year.

While longer-term federal relief is in unresolved, FEMA has approved Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Utah for access to three weeks of funds for the $300 supplement. Officials from FEMA and the Labor Department said on a conference call with reporters on Thursday that FEMA had approved $2.4 billion in grants so far and that an additional eight states had applied for funds.

Arizona was the first state to make the so-called lost wages payments, sending $96 million to 320,000 people on Monday and Tuesday. But the timeline for payments “will be all over the map,” potentially taking several weeks, said John Pallasch, the assistant secretary for employment and training at the Labor Department.

The challenges include reprogramming antiquated state computer systems to handle the new benefit — a factor that caused weeks of delays with the $600 supplement — and dealing with an additional federal agency, FEMA.

“We have to build a whole new subset system with new rules and new reporting requirements with a department that we’re not really familiar with,” said Bill McCamley, the secretary of the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. “We want to dot all of our i’s and cross all our t’s.”

In a call with reporters on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York expressed concern about the legality of Mr. Trump’s executive action and said that “if the states need to reinvent their unemployment insurance administration program, it will be weeks or months before anyone gets a check.”

“I’d rather do business with the old-time bookie on the street corner than do business with FEMA,” Mr. Cuomo added.

Mr. Trump’s resort to federal disaster funds for the supplement followed the breakdown on a congressional aid package that would appropriate new funds. Democrats want to reinstitute the $600 weekly supplement; Republicans have called for a lesser amount, saying anything more would dissuade the unemployed from seeking work.

As the stalemate continues, the latest jobless claims numbers cast a further pall. The rise in new state filings last week, from 971,000, followed two weeks of declines that had brought applications for unemployment insurance to under one million for the first time since the pandemic struck.

There were 543,000 new claims last week for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. That number, unlike the figures for state claims, is not seasonally adjusted.

Despite the discouraging report on jobless claims, Mr. Faucher of PNC Financial pointed to pockets of strength.

“We see continued improvement, with housing starts increasing, consumer spending increasing and industrial production increasing,” he said. “But the pace of improvement is slowing.”

As the pandemic continues to buffet the economy, some workers have been able to find new positions, but not without considerable personal sacrifice.

After spending up to six hours a day submitting more than 600 applications since being furloughed this spring and then laid off in late July, Sonia Vance, 42, finally landed a new job.

Credit…Timothy Nwachukwu for The New York Times

In a few weeks, she starts as an eyewear consultant in California, Md., earning $16 an hour. The position pays far less than the dream job she had before — a $48,000-a-year human resources role at a staffing company — but it comes with health insurance.

The cushion is comforting, because Ms. Vance must now go to work each day in an office, despite health issues that she fears could complicate a recovery if she catches the coronavirus.

Reflecting the experience of millions whose careers evaporated in the pandemic, Ms. Vance said the past few months had been “heartbreaking and very emotional.”

This week, she moved from Maryville, Tenn., and will stay temporarily with a friend. She is finishing up bankruptcy paperwork and expects to lose her mobile home.

“You do feel relief that you have a job, but there’s also a sense of shame and embarrassment,” Ms. Vance said. “You’re out there doing everything you can to be a good member of society and to take care of your own, but it just takes a few months to wipe out all of your hard work.”

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Trump’s Directives Were Supposed to Offer Relief. Most May Not.

President Trump, in announcing his executive measures on Saturday, said he was bypassing Congress to deliver emergency pandemic aid to needy Americans. But his directives are rife with so much complexity and legal murkiness that they’re unlikely, in most cases, to bring fast relief — if any.

Because Congress controls federal spending, at least some of Mr. Trump’s actions will almost certainly be challenged in court. They could also quickly become moot if congressional leaders reach an agreement and pass their own relief package. Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California on Sunday dismissed Mr. Trump’s actions as unconstitutional and said a compromise deal was still needed. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would be open to further talks with Democratic leaders: “Anytime they have a new proposal, I’m willing to listen.”

Mr. Trump’s executive steps on Saturday focused on four areas: extending supplemental unemployment benefits, reducing payroll taxes, extending relief for student loan borrowers and offering eviction relief. Of the four, the student loan memorandum seems likely to be the least controversial and the easiest to carry out.

But his various executive actions did not include several forms of relief that have been part of recent negotiations, including lump-sum payments to citizens and additional relief for small businesses.

If all of Mr. Trump’s directives take effect, here’s how experts believe they could play out.

The expiration at the end of July of the extra $600 a week in federally paid unemployment benefits, supplementing whatever eligible Americans get from their state, created an urgent crisis for the estimated 30 million people relying on that cash.

Mr. Trump described his action as creating “an extra $400 per week in expanded benefits.” But policy analysts said the plan laid out in Mr. Trump’s memo was so complicated, and potentially costly, for states that people won’t get that money quickly, if at all.

“Nobody is going to see this money in August, and we’ll be lucky to see it in September,” said Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a public policy research group.

The plan is full of caveats. First: It actually translates to an additional $300, not $400, for recipients because the federal government would pay for only 75 percent of cost. States would have to kick in the other 25 percent, or $100 per recipient, per week.

States can use the benefits they’re already paying to meet that criteria, a White House official said. But some people currently get less than $100 a week from their states, and they would be left out entirely unless their state agreed to increase their payments. That means the hardest-hit recipients, with the least financial support, “wouldn’t get anything at all from this,” Mr. Stettner said.

There are two more major catches. A big one is that the federal money is likely to vanish quickly. Mr. Trump directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to use up to $44 billion from its Disaster Relief Fund, which usually pays for emergency help after catastrophes like hurricanes and earthquakes, to cover the federal portion of the payments.

Video

transcript

Trump Sidesteps Congress on Coronavirus Relief Actions

President Trump signed four actions on coronavirus relief Saturday after Congress negotiations stalled. It’s unclear what authority he has to do so, and the orders are likely to be challenged in the courts.

“I am providing a payroll tax holiday to Americans earning less than $100,000 per year. In a few moments I will sign a directive instructing the Treasury Department to allow employers to defer payment of the employee portion of certain payroll taxes. Second, I’m signing an executive order directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development, H.H.S. and C.D.C., to make sure renters and homeowners can stay in their homes. I’m taking action to provide an additional, or an extra, $400 per week in expanded benefits. Earlier this year we slashed student loans’ interest rates to 0% and suspended student loan payments, and Congress extended that policy through Sept. 30. Today I’m extending this policy through the end of the year and will extend it further than that, most likely.” “Mr. President, though, this is expected to be tied up in the courts, so this relief is going to be delayed or blocked —” “Oh I don’t think so — I think this is going to go very rapidly through the courts. This will go very — if we get sued. Maybe we won’t get sued. If we get sued, it’s somebody that doesn’t want people to get money. OK? And that’s going to be a very popular thing.” [crosstalk] “… trying to go around Congress, are you trying to set a new precedent that the president can go around Congress and decide how many —” “You ever hear the word obstruction? They’ve obstructed. Congress has obstructed. The Democrats have obstructed people from getting desperately needed money. Go ahead, please. Right here.” [crosstalk] “No, no, you’re finished. Go ahead, please.” [crosstalk] [cheering] “You said that you passed Veterans Choice. It was passed in 2014 —” “OK, excuse me, go ahead please.” “But it was a false statement, sir.” “OK, thank you very much, everybody. Thank you very much.” [cheering]

Westlake Legal Group 08virus-briefing-trumplede-videoSixteenByNine3000 Trump’s Directives Were Supposed to Offer Relief. Most May Not. Wages and Salaries United States Politics and Government Unemployment Insurance Trump, Donald J Treasury Department Student Loans States (US) Personal Finances Pelosi, Nancy Payroll Tax Mnuchin, Steven T Layoffs and Job Reductions Internal Revenue Service Federal Taxes (US) federal emergency management agency Executive Orders and Memorandums Evictions Cuomo, Andrew M Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (2020)
President Trump signed four actions on coronavirus relief Saturday after Congress negotiations stalled. It’s unclear what authority he has to do so, and the orders are likely to be challenged in the courts.CreditCredit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst for the National Employment Law Project, projected that at current claims’ rates, the $44 billion would run out in about five or six weeks. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a research organization, also estimated that the money would last just five weeks.

Also, state governors must opt in and request the aid and must agree to distribute it through their regular unemployment insurance system as a supplemental payment. That’s a heavy demand on state systems that are already “stressed to the point of breaking,” Ms. Evermore said.

A FEMA spokeswoman did not answer questions on Sunday about whether any states had contacted the agency to formally seek the federal aid. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said that the president’s executive measures were on “shaky ground legally” and that asking states facing financial crises to increase their unemployment benefit payments is “just laughable.”

FEMA said the program would be applied retroactively to the week ending Aug. 1 and would last until Dec. 6 or until the authorized disaster funding is depleted, whichever comes first.

You would still owe your payroll taxes under the terms of the president’s memorandum, and so would your employer, if you have one. What might change would be when some of the taxes for the period from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31 are due.

If you are not self-employed, what usually happens is that your employer pays half of the 12.4 percent in Social Security payroll taxes that most people owe and then withholds the other half from your paycheck. For the four months that are now in question, the withholding of the employee share — 6.2 percent — would stop, which means you would see more money in your paycheck.

This would only be true, however, for people who earn under $4,000 every two-week pay period, according to the memorandum, or about $104,000 a year. Those who earn more than that would still be subject to withholding, up to the annual limit of $137,700. And because the cap is per individual and not per household, two-income families who are well into the higher income tax brackets might have at least one working adult qualify.

At some point soon, the Internal Revenue Service will presumably issue guidance saying when the money is due, under what the White House is calling a “deferral” of these taxes. But the order also states that the Treasury Department shall “explore avenues, including legislation, to eliminate the obligation to pay the taxes deferred.”

Such a measure would face long-shot odds. Meanwhile, pity the payroll processors who have to interpret the memorandum. Mike Trabold, director of compliance at Paychex, outlined a number of scenarios in an interview. Employers could decide to be conservative and continue to withhold on their employees’ behalf. Or employers could stop withholding the money starting Sept. 1, and let those workers deal with the consequences of potentially owing money later, assuming the taxes eventually come due.

Then, some employers might formally let some employees continue to withhold even if all the other workers are getting the extra money in their paychecks. Or an employer might try to do the reverse — say, give an enraged employee, perhaps one threatening to sue, the opportunity to take home the 6.2 percent extra, even if the company chooses to continue withholding on all other employees’ behalf.

Assuming the income cap is itself legal, Pete Isberg, vice president for government relations at another payroll specialist, ADP, said that employers would need some flexibility. After all, an employee might show up for a new job on Sept. 15 having already earned too much elsewhere to be under the income cap. Other employees have side income throughout the year. Still more of them may simply make adjustments via a W-4 withholding form on their own, no matter what sort of default withholding strategy their employer selects.

The self-employed face their own questions, since they pay both halves of the 12.4 percent. Minnie Lau, a certified public accountant in San Francisco, is keeping her advice simple for most people who do not urgently need the boost in pay. “I am still telling clients not to spend the money, if they’re thinking this will be forgiven,” she said. “Because it literally hasn’t been yet.”

Here, the White House memorandum aims to extend relief by three months.

Under the terms of the CARES Act, the Education Department and its loan servicers put all federal student loan borrowers into administrative forbearance. That means there are no payments due through Sept. 30 on federal loans that the government controls. Interest is not accruing either, though there was no outright loan cancellation associated with the relief. People can keep making principal payments if they choose to.

If the memorandum holds — and it’s not clear who would stand against providing relief to millions of people who borrowed to pay for higher education — the forbearance will last through Dec. 31. The Department of Education has not yet said how it might carry out the memorandum. It has an extensive FAQ page about how pandemic forbearance works (according to the prevailing CARES Act rules) on its website.

The president’s executive order on assistance to renters doesn’t offer much immediate hope for people on the brink of losing their housing.

Until its expiration during the last week of July, an eviction filing moratorium that the CARES Act put into place protected millions of Americans. They included people who lived in public housing, qualified for the Section 8 rental assistance program or rented from landlords with certain kinds of federally backed mortgages.

Now that the federal freeze has expired, those renters have no governmental protection unless state or local officials have put their own moratoriums in place. The order directs various federal agencies to consider what they can do with existing authority or budgets to help further, but immediate relief for desperate renters seems unlikely via this order.

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FEMA Sends Faulty Protective Gear to Nursing Homes Battling Virus

Westlake Legal Group fema-sends-faulty-protective-gear-to-nursing-homes-battling-virus FEMA Sends Faulty Protective Gear to Nursing Homes Battling Virus Protective Clothing and Gear Nursing Homes Masks Federal Resources Corporation federal emergency management agency Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

Expired surgical masks. Isolation gowns that resemble oversize trash bags. Extra-small gloves that are all but useless for the typical health worker’s hands.

Nursing home employees across the country have been dismayed by what they’ve found when they’ve opened boxes of protective medical gear sent by the federal government, part of a $134 million effort to provide facilities a 14-day supply of equipment considered critical for shielding their vulnerable residents from the coronavirus.

The shipments have included loose gloves of unknown provenance stuffed into unmarked Ziploc bags, surgical masks crafted from underwear fabric and plastic isolation gowns without openings for hands that require users to punch their fists through the closed sleeves. Adhesive tape must be used to secure them.

Health regulators in California have advised nursing homes not to use the gowns, saying they present an infection-control risk, especially when doffing contaminated gowns that must be torn off.

Some nursing homes have received masks with brittle elastic bands that snap when stretched. None of the shipments have included functional N95 respirators, the virus-filtering face masks that are the single most important bulwark against infection.

“People hate to complain about personal protective equipment they’re getting for free but many of these items are just useless,” said Brendan Williams, president of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, which has been a fielding a flurry of calls about the defective gear from nursing homes it represents. “It’s mystifying that the government would think this is acceptable.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency began shipping the masks, gowns and gloves this spring to 15,000 nonprofit nursing care facilities whose limited finances have made it difficult to buy protective equipment on the open market. The first cache of shipments was completed in mid-June, and the second round will wrap up by early August.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_174835617_b4c15a75-89c1-4f41-b85d-edae5e42d931-articleLarge FEMA Sends Faulty Protective Gear to Nursing Homes Battling Virus Protective Clothing and Gear Nursing Homes Masks Federal Resources Corporation federal emergency management agency Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Credit…via St. Paul Elder Services

In a statement, FEMA said it had addressed the complaints about the first shipment of goods and had asked the private contractor that is providing the supplies to replace the tarp-like gowns with models more familiar to medical personnel. The agency said, however, that the original gowns sent out meet federal and industry standards.

“We have received complaints on less than 1 percent of the total PPE shipments to nursing homes,” the statement said. “We continue to engage with nursing homes to keep lines of communication and feedback open at all times.”

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Updated 2020-07-23T10:30:23.915Z

FEMA subsequently acknowledged in an email that the contractor has been sending out a small number of the older gown models.

The controversy over inadequate and low-quality protective equipment has come to embody what public health experts and nursing home executives describe as a halting and haphazard federal effort to protect the 1.5 million Americans who live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

More than 40 percent of all coronavirus deaths in the United States have been tied to nursing homes, according to a New York Times analysis, which found that the virus had infected 316,000 people at 14,000 facilities as of July 15. The virus has been particularly lethal to those in their 60s and older, more so for those in poor health, and it can rapidly spread through buildings where residents live in close quarters and workers move from room to room.

“The federal response to protect one of the most vulnerable populations in the country has been a dismal failure,” said Tamara Konetzka, a health economist at the University of Chicago who has been studying the pandemic’s outsize impact on nursing home residents.

Credit…via New Hampshire Health Care Association

The Trump administration’s largely hands-off approach to personal protective equipment, or P.P.E., has forced states, cities and big hospital chains to compete for limited supplies, leaving nursing homes at a disadvantage as prices have soared.

The recent spike in caseloads across the South and the West has reinvigorated calls for President Trump to use his authority and compel domestic manufacturers to produce desperately needed gear.

“We’re extremely disappointed with the government’s response,” said Katie Smith Sloan, the president of LeadingAge, an industry group that represents nonprofit senior service providers. “Folks on the ground are desperately trying to save lives and protect their staff, but we’re leaving them in the dust.”

The crisis is likely to intensify as the virus gains a foothold in nursing homes across the Sun Belt. Infections at long-term care centers in hot-spot states have jumped by 18 percent since late June, according to an analysis by Kaiser Family Foundation. Florida recorded a 51 percent rise, and Texas saw its cases climb by 47 percent.

The federal government has not said whether it plans to provide nursing homes with additional personal protective equipment in the months ahead.

Credit…via New Hampshire Health Care Association
Credit…via LeadingAge

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare, which oversees nursing homes, earlier this month said it would supply every adult care facility in the country with rapid, point-of-care test kits but the rollout is expected to take months. In the meantime, the vast majority of nursing homes in the United States are unequipped to regularly screen their employees and residents for the coronavirus.

Without widespread testing, health experts say medical-grade gowns, single-use gloves and respirator masks are the among the few tools that can protect nursing home residents from devastating outbreaks that often begin with asymptomatic staff members who unknowingly introduce the virus from the surrounding community.

“It’s really mind-boggling and frustrating that five months into this pandemic we still can’t get facilities the P.P.E. they need,” said David C. Grabowski, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School. “I don’t know whether it’s a matter of incompetence or just indifference about older adults and the people who care for them.”

In a call with nursing home providers last month, Col. Brian Kuhn, director of operations at the Defense Logistics Agency, blamed Federal Resources Supply Company, the private contractor that is providing the goods.

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The contract calls for the provision of 1.2 million pairs of protective eyewear, 13 million medical gowns and 66 million pairs of nitrile gloves.

“They just kind of carte blanche shipped them all out,” Col. Kuhn said, according to a recording of the call posted online. He said that the masks made from underwear fabric were not intended to be used by staff members — only by nursing home visitors — and that the expired respirator masks should never been distributed. “It was one of those things, I’ll be honest, that just slipped through the cracks,” he said.

In response to the complaints, FEMA directed the Federal Resources Supply Company to produce an instructional video explaining how the gowns should be donned and doffed. The contents of each shipment are determined by the number of employees at each care center.

Federal Resources, which is based in Stevensville, Md., did not respond to questions sent by email.

Credit…Lameen Witter/Federal Emergency Management, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In interviews, nursing home executives and employees that have received their second shipments say the contents are an improvement over the first batch but that many problems remain.

Nursing homes in New Hampshire have received face masks with flimsy paper ear loops instead of elastic bands. In Arizona, some facilities have been sent gloves that are either all large sizes or all extra small.

At the Los Angeles Jewish Home, workers were heartened two weeks ago to receive about 1,000 disposable gowns, 187 pairs of eye goggles and 12,000 gloves in a range of sizes. But they were dismayed to also find 2,000 of what employees dismissively referred to as “trash bag gowns.”

“It’s outrageous that they are still sending these gowns,” said Dr. Noah Marco, the chief medical officer of Los Angeles Jewish Home, which has 1,200 beds and 50 employees. “And it’s insulting and inappropriate for the federal government to say we just don’t know how to use them.”

Even nursing homes expressing gratitude for the supplies say they are often mismatched to their needs, while others say the amounts are paltry given how quickly nursing home employees churn through single-use protective gear as they tend to dozens of patients a day.

“If I’m being totally honest, I’d describe these as a token offering,” said Sondra Norden, the chief executive of St. Paul’s Elder Services in Wisconsin. “If we had a major outbreak, we’d burn through these supplies in a few days.”

Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community, a 120-bed nursing home in Harrisonburg, received its second shipment two weeks ago. It contained a mix of gowns — several hundred of the standard and highly coveted isolation gowns and a similar amount of the problematic gowns.

“I’m not sure how we would even use those,” said Jan Emswiler, a nurse educator who trains employees on the proper use of protective gear. She was especially confounded by a packing slip claiming the boxes contained 3,500 pairs of gloves. There were only 1,000 pairs, she said.

“Oh god, even before Covid, we were going through 3,000 pairs in a day,” Ms. Emswiler said. “We appreciate what we’ve gotten but we could really use a lot more.”

As for the gowns without arm holes, Ms. Emswiler said they had been placed in a storage closet.

“I hope we never have to use them,” she said.

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Virus Crisis Exposes Cascading Weaknesses in U.S. Disaster Response

Westlake Legal Group virus-crisis-exposes-cascading-weaknesses-in-u-s-disaster-response Virus Crisis Exposes Cascading Weaknesses in U.S. Disaster Response Volunteers and Community Service Nonprofit Organizations habitat for humanity Greenhouse Gas Emissions Global Warming federal emergency management agency environment Disasters and Emergencies Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) American Red Cross

WASHINGTON — For decades, the backbone of the nation’s disaster response system — and a hallmark of American generosity — has been its army of volunteers who race toward danger to help shelter, feed and counsel victims of hurricanes, wildfires and other calamities.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed a critical weakness in this system: Most volunteers are older people at higher risk from the virus, so this year they can’t participate in person. Typically more than five million volunteers work in disaster relief annually, said Greg Forrester, president of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters, an association of nonprofit groups, but this year he expects the number to decline by 50 percent.

Asked how disaster relief efforts can meet the usual demand with half as many people, Mr. Forrester said: “You won’t.”

It is the latest in a cascading series of problems facing an already fraying system ahead of what is expected to be an unusually severe hurricane season combined with disasters like this week’s dam collapse and flooding in Michigan, a state particularly hard hit by Covid-19.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is running short of highly trained personnel as the virus depletes its staff. Longstanding procedures for sheltering victims in gymnasiums or other crowded spaces suddenly are dangerous because they risk worsening the pandemic. And traditional agreements among states to help each other if crisis strikes are now sputtering as states remain wary of exposing their own people to the virus.

It amounts to one of the most severe tests in decades for a system designed to respond to local or regional storms or other disasters — not a crisis on a national scale. Yet FEMA has been forced to take a primary role in Covid-19, deploying more than 3,000 staff nationwide and effectively running its first 50-state disaster response.

“A pandemic complicates every aspect of disaster planning and response in a way that we have never experienced before,” said Chris Currie, who leads the team at the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office that looks at emergency management. “You’re only as good as the weakest link.”

FEMA says it has taken steps to prepare for hurricane season, including expanding its coordination center in Washington, hiring staff and working with state and local officials and nonprofits to adapt to the pandemic. “We have not taken our eye off the ball about handling other disasters that may occur during this time,” Peter Gaynor, FEMA’s administrator, said in a briefing this month.

On Wednesday, the agency said it intended to avoid, as much as possible, sending relief staff into disaster zones this year, instead relying on “virtual” assistance such as talking to survivors by phone, using photos or other documentation of storm damage to approve claims and meeting with state and local counterparts online rather than in person.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_170845608_9276114d-fed5-432f-bdb5-5939a08e0d3f-articleLarge Virus Crisis Exposes Cascading Weaknesses in U.S. Disaster Response Volunteers and Community Service Nonprofit Organizations habitat for humanity Greenhouse Gas Emissions Global Warming federal emergency management agency environment Disasters and Emergencies Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) American Red Cross
Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

Volunteers are key to America’s disaster response, distributing supplies, clearing debris, and rebuilding homes. In interviews, executives with the nonprofit organizations like the Salvation Army that help organize volunteer teams said that, in normal years, they would be training and equipping thousands of people and flying them to whichever part of the country needs help, then housing and feeding them in close quarters.

Suddenly, none of that works.

Three-quarters of the Salvation Army’s volunteers for most disasters are 65 or older, according to Jeff Jellets, the group’s disaster coordinator for the southern United States. For those people, “We’re telling them, maybe this isn’t the best time for you to deploy,” he said, given that older people are at particularly high risk from Covid-19.

The consequences could be enormous: The Salvation Army has more than 2.7 million volunteers annually for everything from disaster response to after-school programs and vocational programs. Disaster volunteers worked 3.5 million hours during the 2017 hurricane season.

The Salvation Army is considering using more paid staff and housing them in hotels rather than dormitories. But that’s expensive, Mr. Jellets said, and the pandemic has closed the Salvation Army’s thrift stores, which bring in almost in $600 million annually in sales.

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Habitat for Humanity, which last year helped rebuild or repair almost 700 homes damaged by disasters in the United States, also gets many of its volunteers from older Americans, according to Jonathan Reckford, the chief executive officer. Given the risks of air travel combined with the danger that volunteers inadvertently bring the disease into a community they’re trying to help, Mr. Reckford said Habitat for Humanity had hit pause, for now, on deploying any volunteers.

Overall, the organization fielded 1.2 million volunteers last year for all its work. It did not break out a number for disaster response.

That means its group quite likely won’t be able to respond the way it usually does if a hurricane were to strike the United States this year. “It’s our greatest fear right now,” Mr. Reckford said.

If a disaster struck a part of the country that was under large-scale quarantine, “we would really have to back away from some of our response in those areas,” Mary Casey-Lockyer, a senior associate with the disaster health program for the American Red Cross, said during a webinar for nonprofits last week. The Red Cross deployed 9,000 workers to large disasters last year; it expects to deploy half as many volunteers as usual in person this year.

“I don’t want to imagine a world where it’s so bad we can’t respond,” added Cathy Earl, director of disaster response for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, which has 10,000 volunteers around the country who work on disaster response. She said it was hard to project how many volunteers would be deployed this year, but called a 50 percent decrease “a reasonable estimate.”

The volunteer shortage threatens to ripple through the nation’s disaster response system, exacerbating other problems.

One spillover effect will be financial. Under federal law, state or local governments typically have to put up $25 for every $75 the federal government provides for disaster relief. But they’re allowed to count the services of volunteers toward that amount, Mr. Forrester said.


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  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated May 20, 2020

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      Over 38 million people have filed for unemployment since March. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Is ‘Covid toe’ a symptom of the disease?

      There is an uptick in people reporting symptoms of chilblains, which are painful red or purple lesions that typically appear in the winter on fingers or toes. The lesions are emerging as yet another symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. Chilblains are caused by inflammation in small blood vessels in reaction to cold or damp conditions, but they are usually common in the coldest winter months. Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • How can I help?

      Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.


As a result, fewer volunteers means cities, counties and states need to come up with more of their own money to get federal aid.

But local governments are already struggling financially from the virus. Counties alone have seen $144 billion in lost income and increased expenditures, more than one-fifth of their total budgets, according to the National Association of Counties. “Our costs are skyrocketing and our revenues are plummeting,” said Paul Guequierre, a spokesman for the association.

Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times

At the same time, the federal government is asking local officials to take on new tasks.

One of the toughest challenges will be evacuating and sheltering people without spreading the virus. This week following the dam collapse in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer acknowledged that social distancing in shelters would be difficult.

This week FEMA advised state and local governments to find backup sources for supplies, find ways to distribute them without physical contact, figure out how to stop disaster survivors from gathering in groups, and to do all that with “diminished support” from volunteers.

In its new guidance, FEMA also laid out a host of new challenges facing disaster shelters. Local officials, it said, must find more space, and come up with a plan to shelter people with Covid-19.

FEMA even urged local officials to revise their plans for dealing with disaster victims’ pets, since spacing rules at shelters means there might not be room for them.

When states don’t have enough people to respond to a disaster, they usually start by asking other states to send their own emergency management teams. But with Covid-19, “They’re not sure what they might need in their own states,” said Joyce Flinn, Iowa’s emergency management director and head of the committee at the National Emergency Management Association that oversees the mutual-aid system.

When those options prove inadequate, cities and states are meant to turn to FEMA for support. However, the agency was already stretched thin as climate change makes disasters more frequent and intense. The virus crisis has stretched it further.

Brock Long, who headed FEMA during the catastrophic hurricanes and wildfires of 2017 and 2018, said there was only so much the agency’s own people could do. “They’re like the sixth man coming off the bench in a basketball game, down by 20, and being told to win the game,” Mr. Long said. “We win and lose together.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How Kushner’s Volunteer Force Led a Fumbling Hunt for Medical Supplies

Westlake Legal Group how-kushners-volunteer-force-led-a-fumbling-hunt-for-medical-supplies How Kushner’s Volunteer Force Led a Fumbling Hunt for Medical Supplies United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Medical Devices Masks Kushner, Jared Government Contracts and Procurement federal emergency management agency Defense Production Act Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

This spring, as the United States faced a critical shortage of masks, gloves and other protective equipment to battle the coronavirus pandemic, a South Carolina physician reached out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency with an offer of help.

Dr. Jeffrey Hendricks had longtime manufacturing contacts in China and a line on millions of masks from established suppliers. Instead of encountering seasoned FEMA procurement officials, his information was diverted to a team of roughly a dozen young volunteers, recruited by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and overseen by a former assistant to Mr. Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump.

The volunteers, foot soldiers in the Trump administration’s new supply-chain task force, had little to no experience with government procurement procedures or medical equipment. But as part of Mr. Kushner’s governmentwide push to secure protective gear for the nation’s doctors and nurses, the volunteers were put in charge of sifting through more than a thousand incoming leads, and told to pass only the best ones on for further review by FEMA officials.

ImageWestlake Legal Group 05virus-fema-hendricks-articleLarge How Kushner’s Volunteer Force Led a Fumbling Hunt for Medical Supplies United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Medical Devices Masks Kushner, Jared Government Contracts and Procurement federal emergency management agency Defense Production Act Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Credit…Stephen Stinson

As the federal government’s warehouses were running bare and medical workers improvised their own safety gear, Dr. Hendricks found his offer stalled. Many of the volunteers were told to prioritize tips from political allies and associates of President Trump, tracked on a spreadsheet called “V.I.P. Update,” according to documents and emails obtained by The New York Times. Among them were leads from Republican members of Congress, the Trump youth activist Charlie Kirk and a former “Apprentice” contestant who serves as the campaign chair of Women for Trump.

Trump allies also pressed FEMA officials directly: A Pennsylvania dentist, once featured at a Trump rally, dropped the president’s name as he pushed the agency to procure test kits from his associates.

Few of the leads, V.I.P. or otherwise, panned out, according to a whistle-blower memo written by one volunteer and sent to the House Oversight Committee. While Vice President Mike Pence dropped by the volunteers’ windowless command center in Washington to cheer them on, they were confused and overwhelmed by their task, the whistle-blower said in interviews.

“The nature and scale of the response seemed grossly inadequate,” said the volunteer, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity and, like the others, signed a nondisclosure agreement. “It was bureaucratic cycles of chaos.”

The fumbling search for new supplies — heralded by Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner as a way to pipe private-sector hustle and accountability into the hidebound federal bureaucracy — became a case study of Mr. Trump’s style of governing, in which personal relationships and loyalty are often prized over governmental expertise, and private interests are granted extraordinary access and deference.

Federal officials who had spent years devising emergency plans were layered over by Kushner allies, working with and within the White House coronavirus task force, who believed their private-sector experience could solve the country’s looming supply shortage. The young volunteers — drawn from venture capital and private equity firms — were expected to apply their deal-making experience to quickly weed out good leads from the mountain of bad ones, administration officials said in an interview. FEMA and other agencies, despite years of emergency preparation, were not equipped for the unprecedented task of a pandemic that impacted all 50 states, they said.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_170742978_0f710a8c-d7eb-43a5-a1d9-ee90abc00607-articleLarge How Kushner’s Volunteer Force Led a Fumbling Hunt for Medical Supplies United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Medical Devices Masks Kushner, Jared Government Contracts and Procurement federal emergency management agency Defense Production Act Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Credit…Pool photo by Evan Vucci

But the officials acknowledged it was difficult to identify specific contracts the volunteers had successfully sourced.

At least one tip the volunteers forwarded turned into an expensive debacle. In late March, according to emails obtained by The Times, two of the volunteers passed along procurement forms submitted by Yaron Oren-Pines, a Silicon Valley engineer who said he could provide more than 1,000 ventilators.

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Mr. Kushner’s volunteers passed the tip to federal officials who then sent it to senior officials in New York, who assumed Mr. Oren-Pines had been vetted and awarded him an eye-popping $69 million contract. Not a single ventilator was delivered, and New York is now seeking to recover the money.

“There’s an old saying in emergency management — disaster is the wrong time to exchange business cards,” said Tim Manning, a former deputy administrator at FEMA. “And it’s absolutely the wrong time to make up new procedures.”

Records and emails obtained by The Times — along with interviews with current and former FEMA officials, former task force volunteers and others briefed on the agency’s work — provide the most detailed picture yet of how the Kushner-installed personnel complicated the government response amid a deadly crisis.

The whistle-blower memo, which has been provided to lawmakers on a House oversight committee, was disclosed on Tuesday by The Washington Post.

In April, as the virus spread, the shortages continued and the volunteers struggled, Dr. Hendricks waited, eager to move forward. Some of his messages to the volunteers went unreturned, he said, as he read news reports of the government making other, questionable, deals.

“When I offered them viable leads at viable prices from an approved vendor, they kept passing me down the line and made terrible deals instead,” said Dr. Hendricks, who has since sold supplies to hospitals in Michigan and elsewhere.

The coronavirus crisis presented a unique test for FEMA, former and current officials said: a 50-state emergency in which acquiring emergency supplies, many of them from overseas, became the overriding concern, rather than efficiently distributing goods readily available in the United States. In interviews, current FEMA officials and former colleagues who have spoken with them in recent weeks conveyed mixed feelings about the Kushner team’s involvement.

Some praised Mr. Kushner for ensuring that other White House officials did not meddle further in the response effort, and for quickly enlisting the Pentagon to link FEMA with the military’s suppliers. At meetings, some said, Mr. Kushner was well prepared with data and determined to act quickly. His deputies, including a Kushner friend and Trump appointee named Adam Boehler, were responsive to questions and concerns.

In a statement, Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, the head of the supply-chain task force, said the volunteers had served an important function.

“The first thing we knew we needed to do was find more product around the globe in order to buy time to increase domestic production,” the admiral said. “This group made lots of calls, followed up on many leads. They helped wade through the hundreds of false claims and turned over a few true sources to government action officers. Their efforts saved many government man hours.”

But other officials described Mr. Kushner’s efforts as the solution to a problem of the president’s own making. Had Mr. Trump acted earlier than mid-March to assign FEMA to lead the federal government’s coronavirus response, the agency’s normal procedures might have been able to cope with the swelling demand. By the time Mr. Trump’s decision came, the Strategic National Stockpile was already running low on critical supplies. FEMA had no choice but to pursue every available lead, officials said, no matter how far-fetched.

And while the volunteers who began arriving around March 20 put eyes on the influx of tips at the agency, the officials did not understand why the White House did not recruit more manpower from the military or other agencies with logistics expertise, as FEMA typically does in a crisis. Two current and a former FEMA official briefed on the agency’s operations said the White House effort led to missed opportunities to procure personal protective gear from legitimate sources.

Some associates of Mr. Trump sought special treatment from FEMA. In one case, Jeanine Pirro, the Trump stalwart and Fox host, repeatedly contacted task force members and FEMA officials until 100,000 masks were sent to a hospital she favored. Ms. Pirro did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Dr. Albert Hazzouri, a Pennsylvania dentist and visitor of Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private Florida club, repeatedly pressed FEMA officials to buy from his associates, after being referred by Rep. Brian Babin, a Texas Republican and fellow dentist.

He said he could help facilitate a procurement of 100,000 test kits from Mexico. Dr. Hazzouri, who has used his relationship with Mr. Trump to gain access to federal agencies in the past, repeatedly called the team of volunteers and FEMA officials, according to those involved in the agency’s operations, even invoking his friendship with the president when he was directed to a portal for submitting bids.

When reached for comment, a man who identified himself as the dentist’s brother said Dr. Hazzouri was not available and denied that the dentist had made use of his friendship with the president, received any special treatment or had a financial interest in the potential deal, saying he merely had made a few introductions. None of his tips resulted in FEMA supply deals.

The agency’s career staff is filled with military veterans and disaster specialists whose careers trace the history of recent American catastrophes: Katrina, Sandy, Deepwater Horizon, Irene. The volunteers, most in their 20s, had different names in their résumés: Stanford, Goldman Sachs, Google. One had graduated from college just the previous spring. They were recruited from Insight Partners, Clayton Dubilier & Rice and other investment firms and consulting companies in New York City.

According to the whistle-blower, they were given little initial instruction. They used personal Gmail accounts, prompting suspicion from some prospective suppliers and brokers who questioned their bona fides. A few days after they began, a government lawyer belatedly showed up with nondisclosure forms from the Department of Homeland Security.

Bottles of hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes were placed around the room, and in a nod to social distancing, sheets of paper were laid on every other chair at the long conference tables, though many of the seats were eventually occupied by volunteers. For Mr. Pence’s pep talk in late March, the televisions were switched from CNN to Fox News.

For the next three weeks, the volunteers worked 12-hour days, struggling to keep up with leads funneled through FEMA’s website and trying to navigate the federal government’s byzantine procurement rules. But their work was plagued by frequent changes in process, efforts that turned out to be wasted, poor communication and mounting dread about their lack of progress, the whistle-blower said in interviews and the blistering memo.

“These problems affect the entire chain of command, hamper our ability to respond and could result in many Americans losing their lives,” the whistle-blower wrote.

Their temporary supervisor was Rachael Baitel, a 2014 Princeton graduate who had worked as a White House assistant to Ms. Trump before moving on to a position at the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Ms. Baitel told volunteers to prioritize leads from the politically connected, according to the former volunteer and documents reviewed by The Times. The senior administration officials said that the White House task force was unaware that any FEMA leads were being prioritized on a V.I.P. list. All leads judged by the volunteers to be worth pursuing, the officials said, would have been reviewed by career government officials, with a final contract decision made by FEMA procurement experts.

Many other leads came to the volunteers from Mr. Kushner’s team. There was Mr. Boehler, a former venture capitalist and Mr. Kushner’s college roommate, who was serving elsewhere in the administration, as well as Avi Berkowitz, a Kushner aide, and Ms. Trump’s chief of staff, Julie Radford. Tips also came in from Republican members of congress, conservative media personalities and Admiral Polowczyk.

When Tana Goertz, the former “Apprentice” contestant who now runs Women For Trump, wrote in with a lead for N95 masks, it circulated among top Trump appointees at three federal agencies — including Mr. Trump’s top public health preparedness official, Robert Kadlec. Ms. Goertz did not reply to messages seeking comment.

In contrast, Dr. Hendricks’s messages sometimes went unanswered and were passed from person to person, even though he provided the codes and filled out the forms the government required, and sent a picture of the masks to Ms. Baitel to prove that they were real.

Weeks after the volunteers left in early April, and his tip had been passed to a Defense Department employee, Dr. Hendricks finally saw a sign of progress: notification of a possible site visit in China. “After five weeks of somewhat frustrating efforts, I’m finally hopeful,” he said.

Other potential suppliers contacted FEMA officials after the volunteers departed, asking about lack of follow-up. FEMA officials, who were not provided with complete records on the calls made by the volunteers, were forced to restart vetting some bids.

The volunteers also worked on other aspects of Mr. Kushner’s White House effort, notably Project Airbridge, in which American taxpayers paid to ship crates of gowns, masks and gloves procured in China by large American suppliers, such as Cardinal Health, McKesson and Owens & Minor.

Supplies of protective gear have improved in recent weeks, administration officials said, pointing to an agreement the White House struck with 3M in early April to procure more than 160 million respirators over three months. But many medical workers across the country say that shortages remain a serious problem.

“There are health providers quitting their jobs because they are worried about getting sick,” said Dr. Valerie Griffeth, an emergency room doctor in Oregon and a founder of Get Us P.P.E., a volunteer effort to match available medical supplies with hospitals and emergency workers.

She and other front-line medical workers continue to press Mr. Trump to make use of the Defense Production Act, and she criticized the administration’s reliance on the private sector to address the shortages.

“To bring in inexperienced volunteers is laughable when there are professional logistics experts in government who could have helped with procurement and distribution and get us the supplies we need,” she said.

Christopher Flavelle contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy, Alain Delaquérière and Lauren Pressman contributed research.

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Find a Vaccine. Next: Produce 300 Million Vials of It.

Westlake Legal Group 30VIRUS-VAXPREP1-facebookJumbo Find a Vaccine. Next: Produce 300 Million Vials of It. your-feed-healthcare Vaccination and Immunization Shortages Medicine and Health Medical Devices Hypodermic Needles and Syringes federal emergency management agency Factories and Manufacturing Epidemics Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority

In the midst of national shortages of testing swabs and protective gear, some medical suppliers and health policy experts are looking ahead to another extraordinary demand on manufacturing: Delivering a vaccine that could potentially end the pandemic.

Making a vaccine is not easy. More than two dozen companies have announced programs to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus, but it may still take a year or more before one passes federal safety and efficacy tests in humans and becomes available to the public.

Here in the United States, more than 300 million people may need to be inoculated. That means at least as many vials and syringes — or double that amount, if two shots are required. To meet that demand, companies will have to ramp up manufacturing; products that doctors give little thought to now could easily become obstacles to vaccine delivery in the future.

“We’re thinking about the vaccine, but what if the vials it is stored in, or rubber stoppers in the vial or the plungers in the syringes become the constraint?” said Prashant Yadav, who studies health care supply chains at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C.

Timing the orders of medical products like syringes and all the raw materials required to make them will be essential. Medical device manufacturers could increase inventory or find alternative supply chains for products that are running low, but everything will need to be systematically planned. Adding the capacity to make millions more syringes could take a manufacturer as long as 18 months to complete such a large order, for example.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is creating industrywide challenges, including expected delays in inventory replenishment for certain products,” said Lucy Bradlow, a spokeswoman for Cardinal Health, a manufacturer that makes vials and syringes as well as other medical supplies.

Several manufacturers worry that the Trump administration may be waiting too long before ordering for an ample supply of medical equipment needed to deliver a vaccine. One manufacturer said they had recently received an order for syringes, but were concerned that the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a branch of the Health and Human Services Department built to help with pandemic preparedness, was still soliciting too few supplies for nationwide vaccine delivery.

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Elleen Kane, a spokeswoman for the H.H.S., said the department has been “working daily with our manufacturers to secure those supplies and assist them with any anticipated obstacles in their supply chains.”

In March, the H.H.S. set up a public-private partnership to find drug packaging solutions that were based in the United States. It could be adapted for future therapeutic or vaccine delivery for the Strategic National Stockpile, a federal cache of supplies and medicines held in case of emergencies.

The White House is also developing a plan, called Operation Warp Speed, to accelerate vaccine production and try to get manufacturing capacity set up in advance of a vaccine approval. But some experts say that it is unclear whether the plan will apply to vaccine delivery devices like syringes and details are still scarce about which federal agency would be responsible.

Earlier in April, New Hampshire’s senators, Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, sent a letter addressed to Vice President Mike Pence, urging him “to ensure that the federal government obtains the materials to meet the demand for a vaccine when it becomes available.”

Of course, a lot will depend on the type of vaccine and when it is approved. A variety of RNA- and DNA-based vaccines are currently undergoing clinical trials, as well as more traditional types, which are made by placing instructions for coronavirus spike proteins inside a different dead or harmless virus.

RNA or DNA vaccines might have different storage and refrigeration requirements because the technology has never been used for an approved vaccine before. The final vaccine might be packaged in ready-to-use glass syringes, which are commonly used in flu campaigns in Europe, or in a single-dose or multi-dose vials that would be administered with disposable plastic syringes, which are standard for many vaccines in the United States.

The amount of vaccine manufactured by a company could also affect the number of delivery systems needed, said Michael Gusmano, a health policy expert at the Hastings Center and Rutgers School of Public Health. It is unlikely that a pharmaceutical company will be able to match demand immediately — nationally or internationally.

“The good news is we have time,” Dr. Gusmano said. Medical device manufacturers could slowly scale up vials and syringes as a vaccine becomes more widely available.

Early estimates of the coronavirus’s infectiousness suggest that at least 70 percent of the population will need to be immunized to reach what experts call herd immunity, when enough people are immune to a disease that they can also indirectly protect others who are not immune.

“That’s a remarkably high number, and I don’t think we’re anywhere close to that just with people who have been exposed to the virus and developed antibodies,” Dr. Gusmano said. “So you’re talking about a fairly massive vaccination campaign.”

Preliminary surveys in California and New York suggest that anywhere between 4 to 21 percent of people have developed antibodies to the coronavirus. But the accuracy of many antibody tests have been called into question. And it is still unclear whether having some of these antibodies provides effective and long-lasting immunity against the coronavirus. Plus, most vaccination campaigns aim to immunize a high proportion of the population — around 90 percent — to successfully prevent transmission of disease.

To produce the number of vials and syringes needed for a coronavirus vaccine, medical suppliers will need to increase manufacturing shifts and overtime for their employees, as well as collaborate with U.S. and foreign trade authorities to expedite shipments and shorten lead times.

A handful of manufacturers are based in the U.S., but many still have to import the glass tubing for vials, polypropylene for syringes and rubber or silicone for small parts like the stoppers and plungers in these devices. Becton Dickinson & Company, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of needles and syringes, said it made nearly all components of its needles and syringes in-house in the United States. Other companies may source from their factories and partners located largely in China and India, where lockdowns and export bans have already decreased production and exports.

Although syringe manufacturing is mostly automated, with parts like the barrel and plunger made from a mold and put together on an assembly line, Dr. Yadav said manufacturers in India had told him fewer employees were able to work than needed for full capacity.

At least 69 countries have also banned or restricted the export of medical devices, medicines and protective equipment, according to the Global Trade Alert project at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, because of their own needs during the pandemic. Manufacturers of medical syringes may have to find new supply channels, including partnerships with glass and plastic manufacturers that operate outside of the health care industry.

Some lawmakers are concerned that without more federal coordination, individual companies will not have the capacity to match vaccine delivery to the overwhelming demand.

“The Trump administration needs to prepare our domestic supply chain now for the delivery of an eventual vaccine that will need to be delivered to the entire country,” Senator Shaheen said. “It’s vital that federal agencies exercise better foresight so that we don’t see supply shortages like we continue to experience for testing and protective equipment.”

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