RELEASE: Rep. Hill Awards Golden Fleece to Department of Health and Human Services for Distribution of Nearly Expired COVID-19 Tests
Washington, DC, September 1, 2022
WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. French Hill (AR-02) named the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as the latest recipient of his Golden Fleece Award for the agency’s reckless distribution of nearly expired COVID-19 at-home rapid tests to the American people.
“When the covidtests.gov program was created, the goal was to provide Americans with reliable, at-home COVID-19 rapid tests for free. Over $6 billion in taxpayer funding was spent to obtain and distribute these tests to the American people but the delivery of these tests was delayed, with numerous central Arkansans receiving tests that were nearly expired – rendering them practically useless. Due to HHS’ poor management and wasteful spending at the expense of the American taxpayer, they are the recipient of my latest Golden Fleece Award.”
In a letter to Secretary Xavier Becerra, Rep. Hill writes:
Dear Secretary Becerra:
I write to you today to inform you that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the latest recipient of my Golden Fleece award for its poor management of the covidtests.gov program and distributing nearly expired free at-home COVID-19 rapid tests to the American people.
The Delta variant hit the United States in summer of 2021 and our nation was underprepared for it. The American Rescue Plan provided $50 billion for COVID-19 testing. When the Delta variant wave happened, the Biden Administration was underprepared, and covidtests.gov program was created as a reaction. The lack of accessible COVID-19 testing was not a funding problem, it was a preparedness problem. When Americans needed at-home COVID-19 rapid tests the most, they were hard to find.
The covidtests.gov program, which purchased one billion at-home COVID-19 rapid tests, is a representation of mismanagement. When Americans needed access to COVID-19 tests, this program provided free at-home COVID-19 rapid tests too late. According to a letter response from HHS sent on February 8, 2022, “To date, $4.8 billion has been obligated for the procurement of 750 million OTC tests and an additional $1.6 billion for the distribution tests to the American public through the covidtests.gov program.” Multiple constituents from my district have reached out to me expressing concern that their at-home COVID-19 rapid tests they received from the covidtests.gov program are nearly expired. Piecing together a COVID-19 testing response program during a COVID-19 surge, and then later sending Americans nearly expired at-home COVID-19 rapid tests from that program is simply poor management and a waste of taxpayer dollars from the Biden Administration.
I kindly ask that HHS provides my office with responses to the following questions by September 5, 2022:
· What are the plans for the covidtests.gov program? How long will the program continue to operate?
· We know that COVID-19 testing is a boom and bust industry. Does the Biden Administration have a plan to address that?
· The Biden Administration purchased one billion at-home COVID-19 rapid tests to distribute through the covidtests.gov program. How many tests have been distributed to Americans?
· What is the amount of taxpayer dollars that HHS spent on procuring and distributing at-home COVID-19 rapid tests?
· How many at-home COVID-19 rapid tests have been distributed to Americans through the covidtests.gov program within six weeks or less until the expiration date printed on the test package says the test expires?
Should you require any additional authority from Congress to address these concerns, I urge you to notify us as soon as possible. I thank you for your consideration and look forward to working with you to address this important issue.
Member of Congress