On March 1, 2021, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) signaled its intent to increase enforcement of its product safety regimen by seeking to more than double its current $135 million budget via a public letter from Robert Adler, acting chairman of the CPSC, to Rosa DeLauro, chairwoman of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations.1 While the result of this funding request is yet to be determined, a separate $50 million appropriation and an expanded COVID-19-specific consumer product safety agenda are already coming to the CPSC as part of President Biden’s recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act. This new appropriation combined with an increased annual budget would provide additional resources for the CPSC to ramp up its product safety oversight efforts.
Adler’s March 1 letter begins with a two-page introduction that highlights the much larger budgets of other safety regulatory agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It emphasizes the contrast between the CPSC’s heavy workload and its history of “severe[ ] underfund[ing] since [its] inception almost 50 years ago.” The letter then sets forth a ten-page outline that details a plan to “Reinvent[ ] CPSC.” That reinvention starts with a $370 million budget for 2022, comprised of a $281 million annual budget and a one-year allocation of $89 million (as compared to a budget of approximately $132 million in 2020 and $127 million in 2019).
Overarching themes of this reinvention plan include investment, modernization, restructuring, and expansion. Indeed, Adler’s letter uses some iteration of the term “expand” thirty times. The letter also includes several overarching goals for the agency, including:
Adler concludes his letter by acknowledging “that the proposal outlined here is audacious—but it is also necessary” because the “CPSC is a tiny agency with an enormous mission that continues to expand.” Although the CPSC has issued only 50 recalls in 2021,2 Adler’s ambitious budget request signals a potential avalanche of additional recalls should the CPSC get the resources it seeks for 2022.
President Biden’s recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act will give the CPSC an unexpected head start in 2021. Specifically, § 7401 of the Act appropriates $50 million to the CPSC for fiscal year 2021 to:
These purposes mostly align with Adler’s outline to the Committee on Appropriations, albeit with a COVID-19-specific twist. The question is whether the CPSC will be able to take on any of the items from its 2022 wish list while implementing the objectives of the Act for the remainder of this year. With $50 million and a new COVID-19 consumer product safety agenda in hand, the CPSC seems poised to be even more active in 2021 and going forward.
1 Letter from Robert Adler, Acting Chairman, Consumer Product Safety Commission, to Rosa DeLauro, Chairwoman, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives (Mar. 1, 2021), https://cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/Reinventing%20CPSC%20-%20DeLauro.pdf?mw.RvWhqH7E3O2xY5mZgMPNG.kaFJwfw.
2 CPSC, Recall List, https://www.cpsc.gov/Recalls.
3 American Rescue Plan Act, H.R. 1319, 117th Congress § 7401 (2021).