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U.S. Rep. Blunt Rochester aiming to tackle supply chain issues with America COMPETES Act

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DELAWARE – If you waited months for a new car, went to multiple stores looking for a COVID-19 test only to find empty shelves, or even paid more for groceries, you have been directly impacted by supply chain issues.

Global Issue, Backyard Impact

But for some, those issues are more than just an inconvenience. Steel workers in Delaware say they’ve seen jobs drying up. “Steel workers have seen manufacturing job decreases in the U.S. while other countries like China and Russia concentrated on supply chains,” said Staff Representative for United Steelworkers District 4 Ken Gomeringer.

Meanwhile, over the past several years, eight new small to medium sized manufacturing firms have opened their doors in central Delaware. But, supply chain disruptions have forced some to cut production. “One of our larger manufacturers has shut down lines because they cannot get the supplies they need to run the lines, to manufacture the products that they need.” said Executive Director of Kent Economic Partnership Linda Parkowski. “I can’t recruit more if they cannot get the supplies they need to run their lines and keep their workers busy.”

All of this happening, as Delaware Technical Community College (Del. Tech.) is trying to make sure that their graduates have work opportunities available. “First, strengthening our supply chain will lead to increased economic vitality. Second, the creation of jobs in our manufacturing sector will be of great benefit to our state and nation as we move forward,” said Associate V.P. of Workforce Development and Community Education of Del. Tech. Dr. Paul Morris.

America COMPETES Act

Those issues are why U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester is hoping the America COMPETES Act will make it through the Senate, like it did in the House. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I heard from Delawareans up and down the state, who were concerned about the future,” she said. “Whether it was a family, a business owner, or a manufacturer, there was a shared concern. The shared concern really focused on the day to day operations.”

Rep. Blunt Rochester says the uncertainty and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the only thing disrupting the supply chain. “We are depending on other countries for many of these things. A decline in our domestic manufacturing capacity, coupled with the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe supply chain disruptions,” she said. “Add on top of that Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which is disrupting global supply chains, causing more concerns. With inflation already at an all-time high, Putin’s price hike is hurting Americans in their wallets and at the pump. It’s clear that we must act to bolster U.S. supply chains and spur domestic manufacturing of critical goods.”

The America COMPETES Act works to tackle those issues on a few different fronts, according to Rep. Blunt Rochester. “It establishes the Office of Manufacturing Security and Resiliency within the Department of Commerce, responsible for leading a government-wide effort to strengthen supply chains critical to the nation’s economic vitality, and national security,” she said. “It ensures that the office maps and monitors supply chains, identifies gaps and vulnerabilities within those supply chains, and identifies opportunities to address supply chain risks.”

Rep. Blunt Rochester adds that the bill would make room for $45B in financial assistance to support supply chain resilience and manufacturing of critical goods. It would also give clearer supply chain guidance for the private sector. “This bill would equip the private sector with the best practices and guidelines needed to proactively identify and mitigate supply chain vulnerabilities,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester.

Hopeful For Help

Delaware’s stakeholders say they’re excited at the prospect of working out supply chain kinks, and bringing more manufacturing back to American soil. “We have to improve and stabilize our manufacturing base, and improve our supply chains, which would protect our jobs,” said Gomeringer. “These funds would also help with relocating manufacturing facilities back to the United States, and out of countries like Russia or China.”

Dr. Morris says for Delaware’s students, the provisions in the bill would help paint a brighter future. “If enacted, the provisions within the supply chain subtitle will provide new opportunities for all of our students to enter jobs in manufacturing, while also mitigating our nation’s supply chain vulnerabilities,” he said.

The America COMPETES Act is now onto the U.S. Senate for review. Rep. Blunt Rochester’s team tells 47 ABC the bill has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office.

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