GAFFNEY, S.C. (WSPA) – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham visited a plant in Gaffney of NC-based yarn manufacturing company Parkdale Mills on Monday.
According to plant manager Joe Moore, Parkdale Mills is currently partnering with other manufacturing companies to make 10 million cotton face masks per week. Using cotton grown in South Carolina, the company has made enough yarn for 600 million masks since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.
According to Senator Graham’s office, the senator will discuss the U.S. MADE Act, legislation he has introduced which is meant to decrease the country’s dependence on countries like China for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) against COVID-19.
Graham said he wants his home state South Carolina to be a leader in PPE production.
“Coronavirus has been a painful wake-up call that we are too reliant on nations like China for critical medical supplies,” said Senator Graham. “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that South Carolina leads the way when it comes to getting the medical supply chain out of China.”
Graham is pushing for the U.S. MADE Act to be included in a Phase 4 Coronavirus relief package.
“The (relief) package should be big, robust, should be focused on having the equipment and the supplies you need to maintain and manage the virus until we get the vaccine,” he said. “Phase four is coming. I’m going focus on safely reopening schools and what can we do to help absorb the costs of reopening schools. I’m going to try to get the money that the hospitals are losing because they’re overrun with COVID patients.
“What have we learned from the Coronavirus? It’s been a wake-up call for America,” Graham said.
Since the pandemic started, Senator Graham said producing and distributing personal protective gear,or PPE, has proven to be a challenge for our country.
“90% of the protective equipment that doctors and nurses use every day to protect themselves and to take care of our families is made in China,” he said. “We hit a wall about four months ago. We had critical shortages and we had to beg the Chinese.”
Graham said we’ve become too dependent on China. That’s why he’s introducing the U.S. MADE Act of 2020 that would require that our national stockpile of PPE be made in America, just like our military uniforms.
“It will help us enormously going forward to deal with this pandemic from a position of strength and not weakness,” he said.
Senator Graham told 7 News he’s creating a $7.5 billion tax credit as an incentive for any company that will go into the PPE business.
“To make gowns, masks, gloves, bedding, swabs, everything associated with caring for people under the pandemic,” he said.
Graham said the bill will allow textile plants, like Parkdale Mills in Gaffney, to grow.
“It means jobs–particularly here in South Carolina. It means investment and it also means new markets and new opportunities for the textile industry,” Andy Warlick, with Parkdale Mills, said. “It’s important for our workers here to know that somebody is looking out for them–particularly when supplies and what this country has been getting are coming from a country like China who was hoarding these valuable supplies.”
“The American textile industry has clothed Americans for centuries. They’ve been the backbone of the South in terms of manufacturing,” Graham added. “They’ve been hurt by unfair trade practices employed by the Chinese and others, and this is fighting back.”