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National Assoc of Manufacturers CEO: 'There will need to be a third round' of PPP funding

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National Association of Manufacturers CEO & President Jay Timmons joins Yahoo Finance’s Seana Smith to discuss how the manufacturing industry is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance's live market coverage. I'm Seana Smith.

Down on Capitol Hill, Democrats and Republicans are squaring off over protecting businesses. Now Republicans say that they won't support a new coronavirus relief bill unless it protects companies from coronavirus-related lawsuits. The National Association of Manufacturers and nearly 300 other business groups sent a letter to Congress about this, urging lawmakers to help guard companies from the coronavirus-related lawsuits.

Now for more on this, I want to bring in Jay Timmons, CEO and president of the National Association of Manufacturers. And, Jay, thanks so much for taking the time to join your show.

JAY TIMMONS: Good to be here, Seana.

SEANA SMITH: So let's start with those protections that you are looking for. What exactly are you looking for, and why do you think it's so important at this time?

JAY TIMMONS: Well, look, I think everybody wants to get this economy back open again. It is frustrating for everyone, especially those who have lost their jobs or who have been temporarily laid off. Manufacturers, for our part, most manufacturing has actually been on the job since the crisis started because they are considered essential employees that are making the PPE and the medical supplies and the disinfectants and the food supply.

But what we do know is that folks aren't going to feel comfortable coming back to work unless their employers are doing the right things. We know that customers aren't going to feel comfortable going back out into public unless businesses are doing the right things to protect not only their employees but also the customers who are frequenting the businesses. So if an employer is doing the right thing and, God forbid, there's an outbreak of coronavirus or, you know, symptoms related to it, they should not be punished for doing the right thing. So we need to see liability reform that takes into account what employers are doing to protect their employees and ensure that they're not held responsible for something that's out of their control.

SEANA SMITH: Yeah, and certainly something so important here as many more workers do return to their jobs over the next several weeks or potentially months, in some locations.

Jay, I also want to talk to you about your recently released American Renewal Action Plan, and in this you said that, quote-- you said that "the nation is counting on us to continue to play a leading role in this effort, and lawmakers must equip us with the tools that we need." What exactly-- what tools do you need at this point?

JAY TIMMONS: Well, liability reform is really right at the top of that list. And I think this is a partnership between employers, employees, customers, and the government. We all have to do the right thing. Employers have to absolutely make sure that their workforce is safe. They have to follow the CDC guidelines that have been put out for masks and other PPE and disinfectants and cleaning routines.

Employees need to ensure that they're following the rules. Customers need to be responsible and protect other customers and the employees of businesses, whether those are manufacturing facilities or retail or restaurants, and they need to wear protective devices as well. And the government has to understand that if everybody is following the rules, then nobody should be penalized for trying to do the right thing. So that's number one.

And then number two is obviously we need to make sure that we have continued dialogue and guidance with the regulatory agencies to make sure that all of the latest protocols and protections are being communicated effectively to employers across this country.

SEANA SMITH: Jay, so many manufacturers and the constituents-- your constituents have pivoted their businesses. They started making personal protective equipment very, very quickly as well as medical supplies. What has the interaction been like on a national level and also on a state level just in terms of getting the product out to areas in need?

JAY TIMMONS: So we started, gosh, I guess eight weeks ago now when this crisis started, working with various agencies of the federal government. And we surveyed our members, our 14,000 members, to find out who had access immediately to PPE, especially masks and gloves and robes at that point. Then we asked a further question. If you're manufacturing it, how fast can you scale up that production? And then the third question is would you be willing to repurpose your lines? To your point, Seana, would you be willing to repurpose your lines to make these items even if you don't make them today?

We had a tremendous outpouring of positive responses. We were able to connect a lot of those folks with either federal government agencies like FEMA, who are working very-- who we are working very closely with, or state governors directly who are purchasing those supplies and then getting it out to the hot zones.

But I want to be very clear. We're not out of the woods. We're not out of the woods by a long shot. We are working overtime to produce PPE, but honestly, it's not enough. We don't have enough to cover every single human being that's going to be coming out of their house and trying to live a normal life. That is going to take time for us to get there. That's why we need people to manufacture their own masks so that they're not unwittingly transmitting the virus to some of my manufacturing workers who need to be on that front line producing these important supplies.

So we have a long way to go on this, but I do think that we can get through this if everybody's focused on keeping everyone else safe.

SEANA SMITH: Jay, from what you're hearing from your members, it isn't the case that every single manufacturer is able to pivot their business, is able to address some of these areas that are needed, some of these products that are needed, so some are still offline. What regions, in your view, are feeling it the worst versus those that are able to better weather this storm?

JAY TIMMONS: Yeah, I think it's mostly sectors. So, as we know, in April we had a pretty tremendous drop in production for motor vehicles and printing and, ironically, apparel. I actually think the apparel side will come back as they repurpose their lines fairly quickly. And I think we'll see a pretty quick rebound in the automotive sector as well. That's been shut down for several weeks now, and they're starting to slowly get back online.

Our big concern there, quite frankly, is that Mexico has shut down a lot of manufacturing facilities that, under their guidance, they don't consider to be essential, whereas in the United States they would be. And some of these parts and components for the auto sector come from Mexico. So we're working with the Mexican government to try to open up those facilities if it's safe to do so, and hopefully we'll be able to see production start up pretty quickly.

SEANA SMITH: And, Jay, real quick, just from the smaller manufacturers that you're talking to, because these are the ones that are really at risk of potentially failing amid the crisis, are they getting the help they need, do you think? The Paycheck Protection Program and other initiatives that have been rolled out by Congress, that they are offering enough help?

JAY TIMMONS: All I can say is I hope so. So we're now on the second round of PPP funding, and I predict there will need to be a third round. Many manufacturers, small manufacturers, have taken advantage of the PPP program.

And one of the criteria of that, of course, is that you're going to keep folks on the payroll. We know, though, that almost 1.7, I believe, million of our brothers and sisters in the manufacturing workforce are now either laid off or they've lost their jobs. So clearly we have a long way to go, but I think, for the most part, small manufacturers have been fighting very hard every day to not only stay afloat but to stay alive and to be able to continue production after we're on the other side of this crisis. We can only hope so.

SEANA SMITH: All right, Jay Timmons, CEO and president on the National Association of Manufacturers, thanks so much for joining the show.

JAY TIMMONS: Thanks for having me.