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In Maryland appearance, Biden pledges federal support to rebuild collapsed bridge

President Biden delivers remarks at the Maryland Transportation Authority Police Headquarters, near the site of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge, on Friday. Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images.

President Biden traveled to Dundalk Friday to tour the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge by helicopter before meeting with the families of the construction workers who are presumed or confirmed dead after the collapse last week.

Biden said he understood the families’ pain of losing their loved ones, and pledged that the federal government would do everything in its power to quickly open the shipping lanes into the city’s port and rebuild the bridge.

“To all the families and loved ones who are grieving, I’ve come here to grieve with you,” Biden said during a news conference on the banks of the Patapsco River with the collapsed bridge in the background.

“It’s not the same, but I know a little bit about what it’s like to lose a piece of your soul — to get that phone call in the middle of night to say family members are gone,” Biden added. “I’ve been there. It’s a feeling like having a black hole in your chest, like you’re getting sucked in and unable to breathe. The anger, the pain, the depth of a loss that’s so profound.”

Six deaths have been confirmed or are presumed after the collapse. Two construction workers’ bodies were found last week and another was recovered Friday morning, while three more remain missing.

The federal government, Biden said, would support Baltimore with the cleanup and rebuilding of the bridge as well as the workers who have had their jobs and livelihoods impacted by the bridge collapse.

“Folks, 20,000 jobs depend on this port,” Biden said. “Twenty thousand families depend on this port to buy groceries, to make rent, to pay their bills.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers expects it will be able to open a “third channel for some commercial traffic, including car carriers” by the end of this month and open the full channel by the end of May, Biden said.

“We’re going to move heaven and earth to rebuild this bridge as rapidly as humanly possible,” Biden said. “And we’re going to do so with union labor and American steel.”

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) said the six victims of the collapse and their families are in people’s hearts, thoughts and prayers.

“Ten days ago, a piece of the Baltimore skyline and a piece of the Baltimore spirit plunged into the river,” Moore said. “But the people of Maryland, we rallied.”

Relief for workers

Moore said he signed an executive order Friday morning approving $60 million “in financial relief for workers and businesses that have been impacted by the Key Bridge collapse.”

The executive order allows the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor to begin planning the implementation of the business and worker relief programs under the PORT Act, a late-filed bill that is working its way through the General Assembly. It also authorizes the Department of Housing and Community Development to use existing funds to provide grants and loans to businesses and directs state agencies to identify potential funds and existing programs and services that may be deployed to support impacted businesses and workers.

Under the governor’s executive order, $25 million of this $60 million allocation would come from the state’s Rainy Day Fund and $35 million would come from existing agency budgets.

The governor also announced the launch of a partnership between the public and private sectors, he called the “Maryland Tough, Baltimore Strong Alliance.”

“The alliance is made up of leaders who are doubling down on their commitment to the city and their commitment to this state,” Moore said. “Many have agreed to not lay off employees. Many have agreed to return to Baltimore even if they need to move somewhere else temporarily. And all have agreed to help us build a better future.”

The group includes more than 50 members, including foundations, businesses and sports teams, who Moore said have committed more than $15 million “to support our workers and our neighbors in this moment.”

“Now I know our state’s largest city is being tested right now,” Moore said. “But Baltimore has been tested before. We get knocked down, we stand back up and we dust ourselves off and we move forward. That is what we do.”

The Maryland congressional delegation announced in a written statement released Friday afternoon that the U.S. Department of Labor had issued a $3.5 million grant through its emergency National Dislocated Worker Grant program “to create temporary clean up and recovery jobs for workers impacted by the tragic collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge.”

“We will never forget the six Marylanders we lost in this tragedy, and we’re holding their memories and their families close to our hearts throughout each step of this process,” the lawmakers wrote in the statement. “The collapse also caused serious consequences for our state’s economy, but the reality is that the whole country depends on the Port of Baltimore so the impact is felt far and wide.”

“This tragedy took reliable revenue and income from small businesses and hundreds of thousands of workers,” they added. “With this funding, we hope to relieve some of the economic burden and provide stability in a time of uncertainty and grief as teams work to restore the Port as swiftly and safely as possible.”

White House budget director Shalanda Young on Friday ahead of the visit wrote to Congress to urge lawmakers to authorize a “a 100 percent Federal cost share for rebuilding the bridge.”

“This authorization would be consistent with past catastrophic bridge collapses, including in 2007, when the Congress acted in a bipartisan manner within days of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minnesota,” Young wrote.

U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen as well as U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, all Democrats, were at the Friday event with Biden and pledged to help move any legislation needed through Congress.

Josh Kurtz contributed to this report. This story has been updated to reflect that the body of a third construction worker was found on Friday morning.


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In Maryland appearance, Biden pledges federal support to rebuild collapsed bridge