FEMA cancels $55 million mask contract

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said Tuesday that it canceled a multimillion-dollar contract for surgical masks that it had signed with a Virginia-based firm that lacked a history of producing medical equipment.

The administration had said last month that the contract with Panthera Worldwide, which describes itself as a tactical training company, was worth $55 million. The contract was canceled Tuesday “on the grounds of nondelivery,” a FEMA spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal.

The contract originally stated that Panthera was to provide FEMA with 10 million N95 masks by May 1, and the agency said the deadline was extended to May 11. One official told the Journal that Panthera had requested an additional four-day extension, but FEMA denied the request.

The Journal reported last month that both of Panthera’s owners have been accused of fraud and that the IRS had field tax liens against them in 2018. Additionally, Panthera’s parent company filed for bankruptcy last year. Panthera itself had won only one other government contract before, the Journal noted.

The company did not return the newspaper’s request for comment on Tuesday. The Hill has reached out to FEMA and Panthera for comment.

Because of a global shortage of N95 respirators, the market for them has been chaotic since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

In total, the federal government has spent more than $110 million in contracts for the much needed masks, the Journal reported last month. At least 80 percent of the companies that the government contracted out to make the masks were either first-time government contractors or had only completed small-scale federal contracts previously, the newspaper reported.

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