Congress is demanding the federal government increase inspections of toys and consumer products entering U.S. ports and assess what hazards may have slipped in during a safety lapse kept quiet during the pandemic.

The provision, contained in the bill carrying pandemic relief for Americans that passed late Monday, follows a USA TODAY investigation that found the Consumer Product Safety Commission pulled its port investigators for nearly half of 2020 over the threat of COVID-19 exposure. Agency leaders made the decision in private, without a warning to consumers or full disclosure to Congress.

As of earlier this month, inspectors still were not working in five of the 18 ports they normally patrol, the report found. The legislation pushes the CPSC for a full return to the ports and increases its ranks of port inspectors by 50% for a total of four dozen nationally.

Today’s holiday gifts – from princess palaces to water guns – entered the country by the shipload without the usual security checks from mid-March to September, including months that were inspectors’ busiest last year, USA TODAY found.

Overseas goods flowed in via large wholesale distributors, shipping companies and brand-name retailers such as Target, Dollar Tree, Walgreens, Amazon and UPS. The well-known retailers, which have drawn a relatively small percentage of violations in recent years, note that they do their own safety inspections to make sure they don’t import hazards.

The legislation doesn’t fix the fact that consumers still have no way of knowing for sure whether the presents they already purchased this year and other merchandise now on store shelves are safe.

Source: USA Today