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US governors look for ways to aid Ukraine, from field hospital kits to rebuilding funds

At a state disaster logistics warehouse in Solano County this week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom helped pack up a field hospital kit designed for use during the pandemic to treat 50 patients over three days. The self-contained package of hospital beds, IV-starter kits and poles, tourniquets, trauma and oxygen supplies, and automated external defibrillators fits in a 53-foot trailer that will now be deployed in Ukraine.

After loading and shrink-wrapping boxes for shipment alongside state emergency workers, the Democratic governor scrawled a message in black marker on one of the containers, promising that this would be just the first of multiple donations from his state. While some of the supplies California is offering Ukraine — like PPE and ventilators — were in critically short supply in the US just two years ago, the state now has an emergency stockpile that fills more than a million square feet of warehouse space, Newsom said.

“What a gift for us, for all of us as taxpayers, as Californians, to do this, without any impact whatsoever in terms of our own capacity to maintain readiness and keep us safe,” Newsom told reporters, describing the state as being in “an abundant place.”

California’s donation will be added to a much larger March 26 shipment — including emergency and chronic disease medications, antibiotics and backpacks filled with supplies for emergency first responders — that is being assembled by the California-based charity Direct Relief and flown via a FedEx 777 charter to Poland, with all items specifically requested by the Ukrainian Ministry of Health.

The idea for California’s medical supply donations stemmed from a recent meeting between Newsom and Consul General of Ukraine in San Francisco Dmytro Kushneruk. Officials with Direct Relief said California’s donation was the first the charity had received from a state government or municipality that had included surplus Covid-19 supplies.

Direct Relief noted that medical-grade oxygen is critically needed in Ukraine and demand is likely to grow depending on both the course of the war and the pandemic.

“We’d be more than willing to work with other states, particularly if they have supplies that match the requests that we have from Ukraine,” said Leighton Jones, Direct Relief’s director of emergency response.

Newsom and a number of other US governors and municipal agencies are also collecting bulletproof vests, helmets and other protective equipment that has been requested by Ukraine. Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican who recently signed legislation to provide nearly $645,000 in humanitarian aid to Ukraine that is being sent through Save the Children, is supporting a body armor drive coordinated by Vermont law enforcement agencies through next Wednesday.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, has asked law enforcement agencies to look for personal protective gear that could be shipped to Ukraine, including expired or extra helmets and body armor. The equipment would be collected, DeWine’s office said, only if a need is identified by US European Command, which is helping coordinate shipments of weapons to Ukraine.
Several other governors, including Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, have joined forces with private donors to aid in the collection of donations. Cox, a Republican, recently appeared at the launch of a fundraiser and community donation drive known as “Driven to Assist,” where private donors have pledged to match donations of up to $2 million as they also collect items for refugees like diapers, waterproof jackets, warm hats, mittens and base layers, as well as emergency thermal blankets, which will be flown to Europe.
In West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice asked the legislature to approve $5 million in spending to help rebuild the maternity ward and children’s hospital in Mariupol that was devastated by bombing. In a letter to the state legislature requesting rebuilding funds that would be used “once the conflict has ended and the sovereign Ukraine is victorious, independent and free,” the Republican governor said he hoped the pledge would “spur others to contribute” and “show Putin that the free world stands together in support of Ukraine.”

Some states are also taking steps to divest their retirement funds from Russian-owned assets while severing other financial ties with Russia. Phil Murphy, the Democratic governor of New Jersey, signed a new law last week unanimously approved by the legislature that aims to prevent companies that do business with the state from dealing with the Russian and Belarusian governments. It would prevent companies with such ties from bidding on or renewing state contracts, working with state agencies and qualifying for tax abatements.

At least 10 states have stopped selling Russian alcohol in their state-run liquor stores, but business analysts have questioned the efficacy of that move since very few US consumers buy vodka that is made in Russia and some smaller US companies that import it will be harmed by the boycotts.

Other states with defense contractors manufacturing weapons in their states have been touting the role that their state workers are playing in arming Ukraine.

Alabama Republican Gov. Kay Ivey took to Twitter to boast about Javelin anti-tank missiles being manufactured by Lockheed Martin in Troy, Alabama. “We want the last thing Putin ever reads to be ‘Made in Alabama,'” Ivey tweeted.

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