Thursday, April 2, 2020

U.S. Purchase of Needed Supplies From Russia

by U.S. Department of State

Washington, D.C. - April 2, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- The United States is committed to the global fight against COVID-19. We are a generous and reliable contributor to crisis response and humanitarian action across the world, but we cannot do it alone. The countries of the G20 agreed last week to work together to defeat the coronavirus, and we are working closely with these countries and others to ensure that critically needed supplies get to those in need.

As a follow-up to the March 30 phone call between President Trump and President Putin, the United States has agreed to purchase needed medical supplies, including ventilators and personal protection equipment, from Russia, which were handed over to FEMA on April 1 in New York City.

Both countries have provided humanitarian assistance to each other in times of crisis in the past and will no doubt do so again in the future. This is a time to work together to overcome a common enemy that threatens the lives of all of us.

Trump Administration Reverses Course And Allows Social Security Beneficiaries To Receive COVID-19 Direct Cash Assistance Without Filing Tax Returns

by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)

Washington, D.C. - April 2, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- Following calls from U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), the U.S. Treasury Department announced that Social Security recipients will automatically receive direct cash assistance included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act without having to file tax returns.

On Wednesday, Senators Udall and Heinrich, along with a group of 41 colleagues, sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressing alarm over guidance that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued earlier this week that said that Social Security beneficiaries would need to file tax returns in order to receive direct cash payments. This directly contradicted Congressional intent in drafting the CARES Act, which had made clear that the Treasury Department had the authority to send automatic direct cash assistance to Social Security beneficiaries regardless of whether they file taxes.

“Now is the time for the federal government to do all it can to assist Americans financially, especially Americans most in need,” said Udall. “I’m relieved the Trump administration reversed course on requiring Social Security recipients to file tax returns in order for them to receive their direct assistance benefit, after we pushed them to do so. Many Social Security recipients are retired and living on fixed incomes or are disabled, and do not file tax returns because they’re not required to. Congress wrote the law with these people in mind -- and specifically intended that these individuals receive their direct payment without having to file a return. I’m glad the Treasury Department is following the law so these Social Security recipients are assured they will receive their check promptly.”

“The seniors and people with disabilities who receive Social Security benefits are particularly vulnerable during this time. Congress made it explicitly clear in drafting the CARES Act that Social Security beneficiaries did not need to take any additional actions in order to receive their direct payments,” said Heinrich. “While I am pleased that Secretary Mnuchin realized the need to reverse course, it should not require this much political pressure to do the right thing. I will continue to hold the Trump Administration accountable every step of the way in implementing all of the emergency measures Congress passed as rapidly and effectively as possible so our health providers and the families who need help get it without delay."

Department of Justice and Department of Health and Human Services Partner to Distribute More Than Half a Million Medical Supplies Confiscated from Price Gougers

by U.S. Department of Justice

Washington, D.C. - April 2, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- The U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the distribution of hoarded personal protective equipment (PPE), including approximately 192,000 N95 respirator masks, to those on the frontline of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response in New York and New Jersey.

The FBI discovered the supplies during an enforcement operation by the Department of Justice's COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force on March 30 and alerted HHS which used its authority under Defense Production Act (DPA) to order that the supplies be immediately furnished to the United States. In addition to the N95 respirator masks, the supplies found included 598,000 medical grade gloves and 130,000 surgical masks, procedure masks, N100 masks, surgical gowns, disinfectant towels, particulate filters, bottles of hand sanitizer, and bottles of spray disinfectant.

"If you are amassing critical medical equipment for the purpose of selling it at exorbitant prices, you can expect a knock at your door," said Attorney General William P. Barr. "The Department of Justice's COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force is working tirelessly around the clock with all our law enforcement partners to ensure that bad actors cannot illicitly profit from the COVID-19 pandemic facing our nation."

"Cracking down on the hoarding of vital supplies allows us to distribute this material to the heroic healthcare workers on the frontlines who are most in need," said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. "Thanks to the quick work of the White House, the Department of Justice, and HHS, the seized resources were distributed in days to the doctors, nurses and first responders who need them. President Trump's all-of-America approach to combating the coronavirus involves an aggressive approach to stopping hoarding, and the American public can play a role by being on the lookout for this behavior."

HHS will pay the owner of the hoarded equipment pre-COVID-19 fair market value for the supplies and has begun distributing to meet the critical need for the supplies among healthcare workers in New York and New Jersey.

Specifically, after inspecting the supplies, HHS arranged for the delivery of the PPE to the New Jersey Department of Health, the New York State Department of Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

"This is the first of many such investigations that are underway," said Peter Navarro, DPA Policy Coordinator and Assistant to the President. "Our FBI agents and other law enforcement agencies are tracking down every tip and lead they get, and are devoting massive federal resources to this effort. All individuals and companies hoarding any of these critical supplies, or selling them at well above market prices, are hereby warned they should turn them over to local authorities or the federal government now or risk prompt seizure by the federal government."

Vendors interested in selling PPE to the federal government should contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency at Anyone who learns of hoarding or price gouging of PPE should report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud by dialing 1-866-720-5721 or emailing

HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency continue to collaborate with private industry to overcome the shortage of PPE across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Defense Production Act and Presidential Executive Order are intended to prevent accumulation in excess of reasonable demands of business, personal, or home consumption, or for the purpose of resale at prices in excess of prevailing market prices, also known as hoarding and price gouging, of medical supplies critical to the COVID-19 response.

Tahirih Files Lawsuit Challenging the Use of CBP to Conduct Credible Fear Interviews

by Tahirih Justice Center

Washington, D.C. - April 2, 2020 - (The Ponder News) -- The Tahirih Justice Center filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the use of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents to screen asylum seekers for their ‘credible fear’ of persecution. This policy change violates federal immigration law and was enacted by officials who did not have the authority to do so. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of women and children currently detained at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley. Tahirih has also sought information on this clandestine policy through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to compel the government to release records on this troubling practice.

“Credible fear interviews are supposed to be the non-adversarial, first step in the extensive asylum process, in which asylum seekers who have experienced severe violence recount intimate details of their persecution. For decades, these interviews have been conducted by asylum officers, specially trained to work with individuals who have experienced trauma,” said Julie Carpenter, Tahirih Senior Litigation Counsel. “Using Border Patrol—federal law enforcement officers whose mission is to capture and detain immigrants—to conduct these immediate interviews intentionally puts the fate of survivors of gender-based violence, and other asylum seekers, in the hands of agents who lack the necessary expertise in asylum law.”