Joe Biden

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Actions Following the Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse

April 05, 2024

Unified Command structure immediately established and clearing wreckage

$60 million in federal Emergency Relief funds quickly approved for Maryland's initial costs

Small Business Administration to provide low-interest disaster loans to eligible businesses

Department of Labor approves first tranche of Dislocated Worker Grant funding to support workers impacted by bridge collapse

President Biden requests congressional authorization to fully cover the cost of rebuilding the Francis Scott Key Bridge

Private sector makes commitments to support workers

Following the devastating collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, President Biden has launched a whole-of-government effort to provide immediate response, reopen the port, rebuild the bridge, and support the people of Baltimore. President Biden and his team have worked with Governor Moore, Senator Cardin, Senator Van Hollen, Congressman Mfume, Mayor Scott, and numerous state and local officials. The President's message has been clear: This Administration will be with the people of Baltimore every step of the way. This tragedy has had a devastating impact on the victims and their families, and as the President has said, our prayers are with them. The victims were fathers, husbands, and friends in their homes, work, and communities. The Administration will continue to work alongside our state and local partners to attend to the needs of the families and to assist in the ongoing search and recovery efforts of those still missing.

Working Safely and Quickly to Clear Wreckage and Reopen the Port

Clearing the wreckage will be a complex and highly coordinated effort, as teams determine how to precisely cut the bridge's steel trusses into movable pieces; develop plans to safely extract the cargo ship, which is weighed down by thousands of tons of wreckage; and as divers navigate murky waters with little to no visibility. The Biden Administration has taken decisive action to deploy federal resources to begin work to clear the wreckage and reopen the port as quickly and safely as possible.

  • Immediately standing up a Unified Command: The U.S. Coast Guard immediately deployed following the collapse to support local emergency personnel. Federal agencies are working closely with the State of Maryland to survey the wreckage in the channel and allow the Port of Baltimore to reopen as soon as humanly possible. Through the Unified Command, the U.S. Coast Guard is coordinating this effort, in collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the State of Maryland, and others, leveraging a unique coordinating function the Coast Guard is trained to perform in circumstances like this. The Unified Command brings order to a response with multiple stakeholders, prioritization of tasks, integration of skills and resources as needed, and prompt access to additional Federal resources as emerging needs are identified.
  • Completing initial survey work: Dive teams continue to work in extremely hazardous conditions, rain, choppy cold water, and little to no visibility so that surveys can be completed in order to start removing wreckage from within the federal channel. Using these surveys, USACE is developing a plan to open a deeper draft channel to allow limited cargo traffic to start transiting to the Port which will be a key step in the recovery process. This is an extraordinarily complicated process and will be executed with the safety of all personnel as the top priority.
  • Deploying assets for wreckage removal: Hundreds of personnel from the USACE, Coast Guard, Navy, and the State of Maryland are supporting efforts on the ground. Highly trained salvage crews successfully cut and removed the first pieces of steel wreckage from outside the federal channel on Saturday, March 30. The Unified Command has a fleet of six heavy lift crane barges to conduct wreckage removal within the federal channel, including the Chesapeake 1000, the largest crane barge on the East Coast – which is nearly 200 feet long and can lift 1,000 tons. This will be a critical asset in clearing large wreckage from across the bow of the stranded MV Dali. Earlier this week, the Unified Command was able to open two small alternate channels for essential vessels supporting wreckage removal to better access the area, marking the first time vessels have been able to cross the harbor since the bridge collapse.
  • Announcing a timeline for reopening: After detailed studies and engineering assessments, the USACE announce yesterday that they tentatively expect 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 to restore the port to normal capacity by the end of May. More information is available here.

Providing Necessary Resources to Rebuild the Bridge

The Port of Baltimore is essential to the regional economy and the national supply chain, and the I-695 corridor, of which the Francis Scott Key Bridge was a part, provides a vital connection for people and goods traveling along the East Coast. Over 30,000 vehicles crossed the bridge daily.

  • Quickly releasing emergency funds: Within hours of receiving the request, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced the immediate availability of $60 million in "quick release" Emergency Relief funds for the Maryland Department of Transportation. These funds serve as a down payment toward initial costs, and additional Emergency Relief program funding will be made available as work continues. These "quick release" Emergency Relief funds are an initial installment to help with costs associated with wreckage removal efforts, restore essential transportation and design and reconstruction on I-695 and the bridge. FHWA is also providing technical assistance, conducting site assessments, and administering emergency contracts for the new bridge.
  • Covering the costs of repair: The President has also been clear since day one about his commitment that the Federal government should cover any needed costs for reconstructing the bridge. While we continue to assess those costs alongside our Federal and state partners, the Biden-Harris Administration is asking Congress to join us in demonstrating our commitment to aid in recovery efforts by authorizing a 100 percent Federal cost share for rebuilding the bridge. This authorization would be consistent with past catastrophic bridge collapses, including in 2007, when Congress acted in a bipartisan manner within days of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota.
  • Holding the responsible parties accountable: President Biden also made clear that as the Administration pursues its work to clean up wreckage, clear the channel, and rebuild the bridge, it will continue to pursue all avenues to recover costs of past, current, and future work, and ensure that any compensation for damages or insurance proceeds collected will reduce costs for the American people.

Supporting the Workers and Businesses of Baltimore and Mitigating Economic Impacts

The Port of Baltimore is one of the nation's largest shipping hubs and the Francis Scott Key Bridge is critical to travel in the Northeast Corridor. The Biden Administration, in coordination with State of Maryland and other partners, has been working around the clock to mitigate the economic impacts of this temporary disruption, including:

Supporting industry to mitigate supply chain disruptions. Since the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, the President's Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force has engaged extensively with state and local officials, Port of Baltimore leaders, industry, labor unions, ocean carriers, rail and trucking companies, and ports along the East Coast to minimize economic disruptions. As a result of these discussions and collective efforts, import and export disruptions have been minimized. This work has included:

  • Supporting the continued movement of autos and farm machinery through Baltimore. In 2023, Baltimore was the busiest port nationwide for handling of cars and light trucks, and is a hub for transporting other vehicles and machinery, all of which can require specialized equipment and facilities to load and unload. Over the past week, DOT has been working closely with the Port of Baltimore, Baltimore County, and the private Tradepoint Atlantic terminal operator to facilitate handling of additional "roll-on/roll-off" cargo at Sparrows Point, the only portion of the Port of Baltimore that is still accessible and operational following the bridge collapse. Additionally, to expand operations during this time, DOT is amending a previously awarded $8.26-million grant to help Tradepoint Atlantic take on permanent additional capacity that will also assist in handling vessels that are unable to access the other terminals at the Port of Baltimore. This funding will be reallocated to support paving of at least 10 acres, which will allow the Terminal to more than double its prior capacity of 10,000 autos per month to be able to handle over 20,000 autos per month. Tradepoint Atlantic estimates the new facility will be operational later this month.
  • Encouraging East Coast port coordination and streamlining of rail service to Baltimore. Because of close coordination and collaboration among East Coast ports, ocean carriers, and others, dozens of vessels unable to dock at Baltimore have been successfully diverted to other East Coast ports for unloading so that Americans can get the goods they need. To help get that cargo to Baltimore for processing and storage as seamlessly as possible, the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force worked with Norfolk Southern Railway Company to launch a dedicated new service between Elizabeth Marine Terminal at the Port of New York and New Jersey and the Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore. This service is in addition to the service that rail company CSX has announced between New York and Baltimore.

Receiving commitments from businesses to support workers and Baltimore. The Port of Baltimore is a bedrock for the Baltimore economy, generating over $70 billion in economic impact for the State of Maryland in 2023 as it handled record cargo. Around 8,000 people work at the Port of Baltimore facility, many of them union members. Thousands more work nearby and depend on the port, including employees at small businesses in Baltimore. Businesses large and small over the past week have rallied to make clear that they will stick with Baltimore and its workers through this temporary disruption. Specific commitments made this week include:

  • Keeping workers on payroll. Major local employers, including UPS, Amazon, Domino Sugar, Home Depot, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, and Floor & Decor, are committing to retain their workers—amounting to thousands of jobs—in their Port of Baltimore facilities.
  • Providing work and relief to longshoremen and stevedores. On April 5, the port's collective bargaining parties will make lump-sum payments to over 1,200 longshore workers valued at between 1 and 4 weeks of salary. This scheduled payment represents vacation pay earned under the collective bargaining agreement during the previous six months. Additionally, Ports America Chesapeake, one of the largest employers at the Port of Baltimore, has committed to provide temporary work to hundreds of longshoremen who would otherwise go without hours or pay with no new shipments through the port. The Biden Administration, in coordination with State of Maryland counterparts, will continue to work closely with the International Longshoremen's Association, the Teamsters, and other unions to monitor risks of layoffs and income loss.
  • Committing to resume business at the Port of Baltimore. As companies temporarily reroute shipments to other East Coast ports, companies and manufacturers have committed to take steps to try to return key cargo operations to the Port of Baltimore once it reopens. These companies include the Port of Baltimore's top four largest automobile importers Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, and Mitsubishi Motors, as well as Amazon.

Standing strong with the people and businesses of Baltimore. President Biden has made clear that his Administration will move heaven and earth to fully reopen the port and rebuild the bridge as soon as humanly possible, and to stick with the people of Baltimore every step of the way. An outpouring of support has come in this week to support the victims' families, affected workers and businesses, and broader recovery efforts. And, the federal government is working with its Maryland government counterparts to make every tool available for these efforts. These efforts include:

  • Promoting the Maryland Tough Baltimore Strong Alliance. The Biden Administration has partnered with Governor Moore, Baltimore Mayor Scott, Baltimore County Executive Olszewski, and Anne Arundel County Executive Pittman to support the Maryland Tough Baltimore Strong Alliance. Through organizations like the Greater Baltimore Committee, Maryland Chamber of Commerce, Baltimore Community Foundation, and Baltimore Civic Fund, the Alliance has collected commitments to support impacted workers, families, organizations, and businesses that rely on the Port of Baltimore.
  • Supporting the Building Bridges to Recovery Initiative. The Biden-Harris Administration and state and local partners are working with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce to support the Building Bridges to Recovery coalition. This broad-based coalition includes the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Greater Baltimore Committee, World Trade Center Institute, Greater Washington Partnership, along with regional and local chambers, economic development organizations, industry associations, neighborhood groups and others united to assist businesses across Maryland impacted by the bridge collapse and partial closure of the Port of Baltimore. Through this collaborative effort, businesses gain access to vital information and resources while having a powerful platform to share their experiences, articulate their needs, and ensure robust advocacy efforts are provided to rebuild and strengthen Maryland's economy in the wake of these disruptions.
  • Providing relief for displaced workers. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released an initial tranche of $3.5 million from its Dislocated Worker Grants Program for employment services and temporary jobs to assist with clean-up in the wake of the Key Bridge disaster—and approve up to $25 million in overall funding. These funds can be used for worker training, and to pay or subsidize wages for those who lost their jobs and are engaged in post-disaster relief employment. This initial tranche of funding is in response to the State of Maryland's request, and DOL expects to release additional funds as Maryland implements its grant activities.
  • Assisting workers in accessing benefits: DOL is working closely with the State of Maryland to launch 'Worker Support Centers'—in-person services that will offer support to port workers and others to access all of the benefits that they are entitled to. The first center launched yesterday and Maryland is committed to ensuring these centers expand across the impacted counties in the state and to cover vulnerable workers.
  • Supporting small businesses in need. In the days following the accident, the Small Business Administration quickly approved a disaster declaration that will provide low-interest disaster loan assistance available to eligible businesses in need. These loans will provide up to $2 million to overcome any temporary loss of revenue stemming from the bridge collapse and may be used to pay normal operating expenses such as fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can't be paid because of the disruption. SBA has also set up two Business Recovery Centers to provide on-the-ground assistance to business owners in completing their applications and received over 550 applications. Yesterday, SBA approved the first four loans totaling $159,100, with more expected in the coming days.
  • Additionally, the Baltimore Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses team has committed to work on the ground in Baltimore to connect impacted small businesses with resources, navigate federal funding opportunities, organize network alumni, and connect impacted workers with temporary hiring opportunities.

Joseph R. Biden, FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Actions Following the Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/371095

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