Michigan lawmakers request COVID-19 relief funds go to auto suppliers

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Members of Michigan’s congressional delegation are calling on U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to direct existing COVID-19 relief funds toward auto suppliers in need of cash.

Many auto components manufacturers are resuming production this week. But following at least six weeks of downtime and a payday coming up to 45 days after the delivery of goods, many are at a loss of working capital for start-up costs, 14 lawmakers led by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and Reps. Fred Upton and Haley Stevens wrote in a letter to Mnuchin.

Sen. Gary Peters is helping to lead a request to the U.S. Treasury Department that appropriated COVID-19 relief funds go to auto suppliers in need of cash.

“While there are many large suppliers with operations in the U.S., two-thirds of this industry’s employment is generated by small and mid-sized manufacturers,” the letter reads. “These entities are often U.S.-based with limited financial resources to meet the growing needs of this crisis. Without these suppliers, communities and states throughout the country will lose major employers, which are contributors to the long-term employment and economic well-being of the entire nation.”

U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Rochester Hills

Some suppliers have applied to the Main Street Lending Program, an initiative funded through COVID-19 relief legislation and run by the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve. The program offers $600 billion in financing to companies with 15,000 employees or fewer and $5 billion or less in annual revenue. But many suppliers have not received the loans, said Peters, who helped lead the effort.

"That is why we need to have this conversation," the Bloomfield Township Democrat told The Detroit News. "Before we went to the administration, we wanted to show a united front in Michigan, a bipartisan front to support suppliers throughout Michigan and around the country."

The lawmakers are requesting a "special purpose vehicle" that would focus on serving the auto suppliers with short-term loans to help them pay for raw materials and other costs needed to resume production. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act did not provide any specific support to the auto industry.

"Now is a critical time to get this," Peters said. "A lot of small auto supply companies produce specialized parts for the auto manufacturers. They do not have the same balance sheets as a GM."

Organizations such as the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association have been in conversations with the Treasury Department about relief for auto suppliers, Ann Wilson, the association's senior vice president of government affairs, said last week.

"Manufacturing provides a backbone for this country to emerge from this crisis," she said. "We’re not talking about long-term aid, not talking about a grant or forgiveness. It's the ability to get us restarted in a situation that none of us would have thought possible a year ago."

The letter follows a more general letter that last week circulated Capitol Hill from Upton and Rep. Debbie Dingell, who also are supporting Peters' efforts. Their letter from Michigan and industrial Midwest lawmakers to House leadership called for legislation to address the needs of the entire auto ecosystem from assisting suppliers to stimulating demand.

"Every sector of the economy is feeling the harsh impacts of the coronavirus crisis, and our auto suppliers are no different,” Upton, R-St. Joseph, said in a statement. “This pandemic has hit them hard and they need relief. Congress and the Administration need to work together on solutions to protect jobs and help spur an economic recovery.”

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph

Peters also supported that effort, but said the focus on the Main Street Lending Program is about challenges auto suppliers are facing right now: "We are addressing immediate liquidity needs rather than a long-term investment. They will ramp up production and provide it to the OEM, which will drive all segments of the manufacturing down the road, as well. The short-term liquidity will have them paying money back to support those maybe later in the cycle."


Twitter: @BreanaCNoble