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Biden announces plans to address Baltimore port closure and help workers after deadly bridge collapse

The president met with state and local officials, according to the White House.
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After visiting the site of the deadly Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse on Friday, President Joe Biden said that his administration is taking swift action to try to ease the disruption at Baltimore's port and help workers and small businesses affected by the port closure.

After an aerial tour of the site, Biden said that the federal government will provide more than $8 million in grant funds to make infrastructure improvements to the port at Baltimore's Sparrows Point — an area unaffected by the bridge collapse — so it can take on more ships.

The president also announced that his administration would provide grants to workers affected by the pause in port operations and said the Small Business Administration would offer low-interest loans for small businesses impacted by the incident last week.

Image: President Biden Visits The Wreckage Of The Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse In Baltimore
President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the Maryland Transportation Authority Police Headquarters, near the site of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, on Friday in Baltimore.Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images

"I’m here to say your nation has your back," Biden said. "The damage is devastating and our hearts are still breaking," he continued, noting that six workers who were fixing potholes on the bridge lost their lives.

"I’ve come here to grieve with you," he said, flanked by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and other Maryland and Baltimore officials. "It’s not the same, but I know a little bit about what it’s like to lose a piece of your soul."

Biden reiterated that he wants Congress to pass funding to cover the entire cost of constructing a new bridge. He also said that, so far, two small channels have been cleared for ships helping to clear the wreckage and noted the tentative timeline for reopening the port announced Thursday by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The Army Corps of Engineers expects “to open a limited access channel for barge container service and some vessels that move automobiles and farm equipment by the end of April” and “restore the port to normal capacity by the end of May,” the White House said.

In addition to the aerial tour, Biden received an operational update on response efforts from the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers and was expected to meet personally with the families of the six workers who died.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed early on the morning of March 26 when a cargo ship crashed into a support pillar. The remains of two people who were killed have been recovered, four others are presumed dead and two people who fell into the water survived.

Biden addressed the disaster during remarks in the hours following the collapse, saying that the White House would send “all the federal resources they need” and that they would rebuild the port. He also said that he intended for the federal government to pay the entire cost of reconstructing the bridge.

Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young sent a letter to congressional leaders on Friday asking them to authorize "a 100 percent Federal cost share for rebuilding the bridge."

“To the people of Baltimore, I want to say: We’re with you. We’re going to stay with you as long as takes. And like [Moore] said, you’re Maryland tough, you’re Baltimore strong, and we’re going to get through this together,” Biden said during his remarks last week. “And I promise: We’re not leaving.”

Image:Salvage personal work to clear debris from the Francis Scott Key Bridge on April 4, 2024 in Baltimore.
Salvage personal work to clear debris from the Francis Scott Key Bridge on Thursday in Baltimore.Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images

The National Economic Council has also convened the administration's Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force to coordinate federal efforts to support affected industries in the aftermath of the collapse, the White House announced last week.

“We are much better equipped to mitigate supply chain disruptions than we were just a few years ago, thanks to increased coordination across the supply chain and new efforts to strengthen both our physical and digital infrastructure,” Buttigieg said in a statement.

Also last week, the Department of Transportation announced $60 million in emergency relief funds to go toward rebuilding the bridge. The White House said it would serve as a "down payment" for initial costs.

In 2023, the Baltimore port near the bridge, a key shipping hub and source of jobs, “handled a record 52.3 million tons of foreign cargo, worth $80 billion,” Moore announced in February. The port also generated more than 15,000 direct jobs, “with nearly 140,000 jobs linked to port activities,” he said in the statement.