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MEP National Network: Meeting the Challenges of 2020 and 2021

Manufacturing worker standing by equipment

CARES Act Authorization and Funding

On March 27, 2020, the president signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to address the economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act included $50 million for NIST MEP to assist manufacturers to respond to the pandemic.

NIST submitted an implementation plan to the Department of Commerce 10 days after the CARES Act was signed on April 6, with the goal of issuing all awards within 90 days. The last award was issued on June 29, within 84 days, and just 94 days after passage of the CARES Act. Award amounts were determined by a formula based on each state’s population of manufacturers and ranged from $91,000 to $6.1 million. With these funds, MEP Centers assisted manufacturers to increase production of personal protective equipment (PPE), cultivate new suppliers and reach new markets.

CARES Act Impacts

Through January 2022, CARES Act project clients surveyed report more than $1.4 billion in new and retained sales, over $480 million in new investments and nearly $175 million in total cost savings. These projects resulted in almost 18,000 jobs created or retained. Nearly half of the over 5,000 companies served were first-time MEP Center clients.

MEP Centers are providing assessments and serving as a technical resource to help SMMs recover from workforce and supply chain interruptions. They are providing cybersecurity assistance – addressing new kinds of threats as employees work in new ways. The Network is helping manufacturers examine ways to use technologies to improve productivity, which will benefit them long into the future. Among the myriad types of assistance the MEP Centers are providing manufacturers are the following:

  • Assessing the extent and nature of the disruption
  • Rethinking – and retooling – service delivery
  • Forging new and strengthening existing partnerships in the state
  • Helping manufacturers pivot operations to produce PPE, medical supplies and medical devices
  • Implementing supplier databases for searching/matching
  • Tailoring services for operating in the post-pandemic environment

You can read the CARES Act Summary Report and the CARES Act State-by-State Report to learn more.

Looking Forward: Agility, New Capabilities and Expanded Visibility

There is a sharp focus now on the fragility of supply chains as delayed shipments of raw materials and components have resulted in shrinking inventories. NIST MEP has long recognized that the whole of the Network is much greater than the sum of its parts. In the specific context of the global pandemic, NIST MEP was able to marshal a coordinated response rather than rely on a series of two-way communications. Because information regarding the supply and demand for PPE – as well as myriad other needs – was visible across the Network, the resulting response was streamlined, efficient and most importantly, rapid.

As MEP Centers continue to combat the impacts of the pandemic and the economic fallout it has produced, the strength and resilience of the manufacturing sector is paramount. Some manufacturers are scrambling to meet a swell of demand, while others have seen their markets collapse before them. In each case, MEP Centers have worked with them to help them adjust to a new reality. Manufacturers who had previously sold directly to consumers in person have developed electronic commerce platforms with MEP Centers’ assistance. MEP Centers have worked with manufacturers whose markets vanished overnight to help them pivot to produce PPE. MEP Centers are working with manufacturers to help them exploit emerging opportunities, such as the drive to reshore the production of critical supplies. Innovation has always driven economic competitiveness, and it will be integral to the economic recovery.

You can also learn more about how NIST MEP helped manufacturers respond to the pandemic and thrive despite it and about CARES Act funding NIST MEP Centers received to respond to the pandemic.

Released June 30, 2022, Updated July 22, 2022