California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $1 billion protective face mask deal with Chinese electric car manufacturer BYD is sparking bipartisan concerns.
The California Democrat had announced the agreement nearly two weeks ago, but gave very few details, the Los Angeles Times reported. And, the newspaper noted, the governor’s advisers have declined to provide information about the deal.
But the state has already paid the first installment of $495 million to be used in the fight against the coronavirus.
The Times noted the deal, which calls for 150 million N95 masks and surgical masks each month from BYD. The masks would be distributed to healthcare workers.
“I must emphasize, that’s a big deal,” Republican state Sen. Jim Nielsen said. “And what is in the contract that ensures the deliverability — timely — is going to be really, really important.”
Lawmakers questioned why the Newsom administration wouldn’t allow them to review the contract prior to the state making the first payment.
“We would never approve a budget this way,” Assemblyman Phil Ting, a Democrat, said.
BYD, which stands for “Build Your Dreams,” has a U.S. subsidiary based in Los Angeles. The former chief counsel of a competing firm said in 2013 that BYD had a “history of overpromising and underdelivering.”
And last year, state safety officials alleged there were errors in the proper use of respirators — safety masks — used by employees at the company’s electric car plant in Lancaster, California.
Meanwhile, Newsom has suggested residents of his state would likely be wearing masks in public for some time to come.
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