Sens. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, and Gary Peters, D-Michigan, introduced on March 19 the MEP Crisis Response Act of 2020, which would help Manufacturing Extension Partnership 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 American 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.
“This is an efficient, targeted investment that should be part of any large-scale economic crisis response,” said Coons. “Failing to leverage MEP centers in this emergency would be an enormous missed opportunity. 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.”
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.