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Manufacturing Program Gets $8.5 Million

September 29, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A beleaguered federal program that provides consulting services to small- and medium-sized manufacturing businesses is getting an $8.5 million emergency infusion of cash.

The money comes from leftover funds in the Commerce Department budget and can be used from now until Congress passes a federal budget for fiscal year 2005, which starts Friday. The transfer to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership was approved Wednesday by the White House budget office and the House and Senate Appropriations committees.

To keep federal agencies functioning, Congress is expected to approve limited funding for all government offices until Nov. 20.

Funding for the manufacturing program, usually budgeted at $106 million a year, was slashed to $39.6 million in 2004, resulting in the closure of at least 58 of 345 regional offices and reductions in services.

Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., said the extra money is needed urgently to make sure other offices aren’t forced to close or fire more staff.

``Time is of the essence to ensure that these MEP centers have the resources to continue to make their contributions to our economy,″ Kohl said. ``Now, we must work to provide sufficient funding for MEP for the upcoming fiscal year.″

The House passed a bill in July authorizing $470 million for the program for the next four years, including $110 for the program in 2005. The Senate still must approve this amount.

``I hope the additional funding will help the program continue to create and retain much-needed jobs,″ said Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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On the Net:

Manufacturing Extension Partnership: http://www.mep.nist.gov/

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