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Metal Service Centers Seek 'Essential' Status

March 22, 2020
U.S. metal processors and distributors are asking the Administration to authorize operations to continue amid COVID-19 "shelter in place" orders.

Metal processors and distributors are seeking to secure "essential business" classification for its members from the Trump Administration. Responding to "shelter in place" orders implemented in California, New York, Illinois, and other states seeking to contain the spread of COVID-19, Metals Service Center Institute president and CEO M. Robert Weidner III submitted a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the Administration's COVID-19 response efforts, and Christopher Krebs, director of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, to request that metals service centers be considered critical infrastructure and should remain open, despite such policies that may be in effect at state or local levels.

"Realizing production is energy-, labor- and cost-intensive, a facility shutdown is not an action that is quick or easy to undertake," Weidner wrote. "We appreciate that primary metals manufacturing is deemed part of the critical manufacturing sector. We would like to clarify and request that metals service centers are considered essential businesses during the 'shelter in place' policies that are being established in localities and states."

The Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI) is a trade association for metals service centers—businesses that inventory and distribute metals for industrial customers and perform first-stage processing (e.g., slitting, leveling, cutting to length.) MSCI members operate more than 2,400 locations nationwide.

In the letter, Weidner noted that "the companies that MSCI represents are essential businesses that supply product to hundreds of thousands of other essential businesses, including medical supply companies and the defense, aerospace, energy, food processing and equipment industries, and others in the supply chain.

"We estimate that, collectively, metals service centers supply the metals requirements for an estimated 300,000 downstream manufacturers, fabricators and other manufacturing intermediaries," he wrote.

DHS has identified 14 industries that are “essential” to combating the COVID-19 pandemic, though it is an advisory list and not a federal directive. “If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as health-care services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule,” President Donald Trump stated March 16.

Workers in the following 14 industries were identified by DHS as "Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers," including:
- Health care and public health workers;
- Law enforcement, public safety, and first responders;
- Food and agriculture workers;
- Energy employees;
- Water and wastewater;
- Transportation and logistics;
- Public works;
- Communications and information technology;
- Other community-based government operations and essential functions;
- Critical manufacturing, including manufacturing of materials and products needed for medical supply chains, transportation, energy, communications, food and agriculture, chemical manufacturing, nuclear facilities, the operation of dams, water and wastewater treatment, emergency services, and the defense industrial base;
- Hazardous materials;
- Financial services;
- Chemical workers; and the
- Defense industrial base.

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