03.20.20

Gardner, Bipartisan Senators Introduce Bill to Help American Manufacturers During Crisis

Bill would reinforce federal support for national network of Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers, which provide critical resources for small and medium manufacturers

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Gary Peters (D-MI) introduced the MEP Crisis Response Act of 2020, which would help Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers stay open during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

MEP centers, which are funded through public-private cost-sharing, provide manufacturing companies with resources to promote growth, expand capacity, and adapt to change. This is especially critical today in the context of medical supplies and pharmaceutical products, where America manufacturers face wildly fluctuating demand and insufficiently robust supply chains. As manufacturers cut costs during the COVID-19 crisis, MEP centers will lose both service fees and access to already-appropriated public matching funds. Many will be forced to close when the American economy needs their services most.

“The Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program is an important resource for manufacturers throughout Colorado and across the country,” said Senator Gardner. “Colorado’s MEP, Manufacturer’s Edge, has built up dozens of relationships and provided critical insight for manufacturers over the years. All four corners of Colorado will benefit from their continued success and the relief contained in this bill will help strengthen our manufacturing base.”

“This is an efficient, targeted investment that should be part of any large-scale economic crisis response. Failing to leverage MEP centers in this emergency would an enormous missed opportunity,” said Senator Coons. “No one in the country has more boots-on-the-ground expertise than MEP employees when it comes to connecting small- and medium-sized manufacturers with the resources they need. Sending them home when they’re needed most would amount to economic malpractice.” 

“Manufacturing Extension Partnerships provide critical support for small and medium manufacturers. Investing in these MEP centers must be a central part of our efforts to backstop the economy, particularly at a time when we need to boost domestic manufacturing capabilities in critical areas like medical supplies,” said Senator Kaine.

“The coronavirus public health emergency is severely impacting businesses, which is why we need to ensure we are supporting Manufacturing Extension Partnerships to carry on their efforts to provide assistance to our local manufacturers. MEPs play an important role for American small- and medium- sized manufacturers, empowering them with the resources they need to produce innovative, cutting-edge products that drive our economy,” said Senator Shaheen. “This legislation would help ensure MEPs are able to continue operating during this crisis and support the recovery effort. I’ll continue to fight to ensure businesses in New Hampshire and across the country have the tools they need to stay afloat as we confront this crisis together.”

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt our economy, it is absolutely essential that our small and medium-sized manufacturers are able to continue producing essential products like medical equipment and protective gear,” said Senator Hassan. “Waiving the cost sharing requirement and ensuring available capital for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership state centers will help ensure that manufacturers in New Hampshire and across the country can continue to receive valuable advice and support from industry experts to help their business thrive and to assist in recovery efforts.”

“Now more than ever, we need to expand services at MEPs like the Michigan Manufacturing and Technology Center to provide support for Michigan’s workers and our manufacturing sector,” said Senator Peters. “I’ve seen firsthand how MEPs help small and medium-sized manufacturers innovate and take their businesses to the next level. I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort to bolster these services for our manufacturers—and hopeful that we can get this passed quickly.”

The MEP Crisis Response Act exempts MEP centers from federal cost-sharing requirements for one year, allowing them to use their appropriated funding without charging clients for services they need but cannot afford. It also commits $146 million in additional public funds to make up for lost private funding and to give MEP centers the resources they need to fully engage with the recovery effort.

MEP centers are uniquely equipped to act as front-line resources for manufacturers facing supply chain, workforce, and revenue challenges during the current crisis and its aftermath. As Congress considers large public investments to reinforce the imperiled American economy, it risks overlooking existing resources like the MEP network.

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Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.