Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday that the state of Illinois has been "competing" with other states, the federal government and foreign countries in its bids to purchase medical equipment - a process he called "just wrong" as the coronavirus crisis rages on.
Pritzker appeared on TODAY Monday morning, using his latest national television appearance to call on President Donald Trump to use the full force of the federal government to buy personal protective equipment, known as "PPE," and ventilators.
"The truth is that I was on the phone yesterday talking to companies and here's what I ran into: in one case we're competing for ventilators with FEMA and the federal government. So Illinois is bidding for ventilators against the federal government. In another case, we were bidding against foreign countries and other states," Pritzker told Savannah Guthrie.
"And so what's happening too, not just on ventilators but on all the PPE that we need, prices are being ratcheted up and we're competing against each other on what should be a national crisis where we should be coming together and the federal government should be leading, helping us," he continued.
"Look, we're willing to pay reasonable retail prices for the things that we need but the federal government needs to say to all the companies in the United States that produce these goods that they're gonna buy them all together and distribute them across the states," Pritzker said.
He added that he believed Trump needed to invoke the Defense Production Act with regard to companies that produce medical equipment in order to allow the federal government to be a single purchaser on behalf of the entire country.
"He says he wants to be partners with those companies. Well that's great, I want them to get a fair price for their goods," Pritzker said."But we need ventilators, we need N95 masks. The federal government isn't providing most of that to the states. We're out there competing against each other - it shouldn't work that way."
Pritzker also threw his support behind a federal stimulus plan - which Congressional Democrats blocked for a second time Monday morning on the grounds that it does not have enough restrictions to ensure the emergency funding will go to workers themselves over large corporations.
"We certainly need another stimulus put in place. I think some of the lessons of 2008 need to be learned though," Pritzker said, going on to paint a grim picture of Illinois' finances as the state remains under a stay-at-home order shutting down all businesses not deemed essential.
"The money really needs to get in the hands of the middle class, the working class, and people who really need it, and the states, by the way, who are providing services to people who are now out of work and those who are developmentally disabled and others, because remember, our revenues in the states are dropping precipitously because people are out of work and businesses have closed and we are increasing our expenditures in order to take care of people across the United States," Pritzker said. "So we need another stimulus, no doubt about it - there shouldn't be an argument but the truth is that this stimulus bill should be about average people."
Health officials announced on Sunday that 296 new cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in the state, bringing Illinois' total number to 1,049.
Pritzker and Trump sparred on Twitter early Sunday after the president tweeted that Pritzker and "a very small group of certain other Governors, together with Fake News @CNN & Concast (MSDNC), shouldn’t be blaming the Federal Government for their own shortcomings."
Trump's tweet came after Pritzker made several calls - some more impassioned and forceful than others - for the federal government to provide the millions of COVID-19 tests it had previously promised.
Pritzker responded to Trump's tweet Sunday with his own message that quickly gained steam.
"You wasted precious months when you could've taken action to protect Americans & Illinoisans," Pritzker wrote in a message that garnered more than 40,000 retweets.
"You should be leading a national response instead of throwing tantrums from the back seat," he continued. "Where were the tests when we needed them? Where's the PPE? Get off Twitter & do your job."