WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced that the Department of Defense, on behalf of and in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services, awarded $6.5 million to increase domestic production of polyester-tipped swabs used in home COVID-19 testing kits and mass testing applications. This industrial base expansion will allow U.S. Cotton to increase its production capacity in Cleveland, Ohio, from 92 million polyester swab tips per month to approximately 371 million polyester swab tips per month by May 2022 to support COVID-19 testing. The award is made possible through funding in the American Rescue Plan.

“From the beginning of this pandemic, we knew we needed to expand domestic production of critical medical supplies, and we knew Ohio had the workers and the expertise to do it – it’s why our office immediately got in touch with U.S. Cotton. Because of President Biden and our work to pass the American Rescue Plan, we’re finally able to get this company the funding they need to expand production and help our country recover from this pandemic,” said Brown. “The United States shouldn’t be reliant on long global supply chains during a public health crisis. U.S. Cotton has the expertise and the workers to help the country fight the pandemic and the capacity to produce more swabs to increase testing nationwide.”

In March of 2020, Brown hosted Andy Warlick, CEO of Parkdale Mills, which operates U.S. Cotton in Cleveland on one of his weekly conference calls. Warlick discussed his company’s efforts to ramp up production of these critical medical supplies and why Brown’s efforts to address the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed by healthcare workers was important.

“I want to sincerely thank Senator Brown for his continuous and outstanding support of U.S. Cotton’s efforts to expand essential, long-term surge production capacity of COVID testing swabs. Senator Brown provided incredible assistance in helping U.S. Cotton retool their Cleveland plant by gaining the necessary approvals from the U.S. government to verify the effectiveness of these essential swabs for COVID testing. Further, Sen. Brown consistently supported industrial expansion efforts to help U.S. Cotton increase its production capacity from 92 million polyester swab tips per month to approximately 371 million polyester swab tips per month by May 2022 – an effort of increasing importance as news of the Delta variant’s surge continues and the fight against COVID remains a critical priority,” said Andy Warlick, Chairman and CEO of Parkdale Mills. (U.S. Cotton is a subsidiary of Parkdale Mills.)

Brown has led efforts to ensure Ohioans have the PPE they need and that Ohio businesses can ramp up production of these necessary medical supplies quickly. In March of 2020, Brown wrote to then President Trump outlining several steps the Administration should take immediately to address the shortage and ramp domestic manufacturing. In his plan and in his letter to then President Trump, Brown urged the Administration to immediately take nine specific steps to ramp up production of PPE.