US Reps Bennie Thompson and Carolyn Maloney sent a letter to FEMA administrator Pete Gaynor demanding to know how Mr Kushner influences the movement of medical and emergency supplies throughout the country.
President Donald Trump has used Mr Kushner – his son-in-law – to run a shadow task force alongside the official White House coronavirus task force.
According to NBC News, the letter gives Mr Gaynor until April 15 to provide the Representatives with the requested information
Mr Thompson, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, and Ms Maloney, who chairs Oversight and Government Committee, are seeking “all communications between any FEMA employee and Jared Kushner regarding the acquisition, distribution of, or federally directed sale of any form of PPE or of medical supplies and equipment to be used for the diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19.”
The Democrats also want documentation detailing communications between FEMA employees and private corporations volunteering to help with coronavirus response and information on flights FEMA has arranged using private companies to bring medical equipment into the US for sale.
“Project Airbridge,” the new program in use by the government to bring medical equipment into the US from other countries on behalf of private companies, is of particular interest to the lawmakers.
Under the project, the federal government decides how 50 percent of the incoming goods are distributed. That means a FEMA-paid for flight could bring emergency equipment into the country meant for one region of need could be redirected by the federal government at its whim.
The New York Times reported that shipments in Massachusetts and Kentucky have been commandeered by FEMA, breaking deals brokered between organisations in the states and equipment suppliers.
In Colorado, the governor says 500 ventilators meant for the state were “swept up by FEMA.”
The letter is calling for “all flights FEMA has scheduled through Project Airbridge, including the destinations of all such flights, and the manifests detailing the quantities and types of PPE and essential medical supplies and equipment carried to the US on these flights.”
Mr Kushner is being targeted in the request due to allegations that he has been redirecting supplies in a way that favours leaders who can get the Trumps on the phone.
“We are troubled by reports that Mr Kushner’s actions – and those of outside advisers he has assembled and tasked – may be ‘circumventing protocols that ensure all states’ requests are handled appropriately,'” the Democratic lawmakers’ wrote. “We are particularly troubled that Mr Kushner’s work may even involve ‘directing FEMA and HHS officials to prioritise specific requests from people who are able to get Kushner on the phone.'”
Mr Kushner has been under fire regarding his role in supply distribution since comments he made last week during a press briefing in which he offered a perplexing explanation of the nation’s emergency stockpile, claiming it wasn’t supposed to be “states’ stockpiles that they then use.”
“The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.” he said. “So we’re encouraging the states to make sure that they’re assessing the needs, they’re getting the data from their local situations, and then trying to fill it with the supplies that we’ve given them.”
The Strategic National Stockpile was created in 1999 to provide medicine and supplies to the states in the event of a natural disaster or terrorist or biological attack.