White House rushes with infrastructure fixes for US economy | National and global news

BALTIMORE – The Biden administration is relying on infrastructure dollars to help fix clogged ports and cover the country with internet access – but a series of initiatives launched on Tuesday show the urgent pace may not be fast enough to meet the immediate needs of an economy to cope with supply chain compression and a shift to remote working.

President Joe Biden spoke to CEOs of Wal-Mart, Target, UPS and FedEx on Tuesday on how to tackle supply chain challenges as ships still wait to dock at some of the world’s major ports. country. The key problem is that these ports are experiencing record volumes of shipping containers as the economy has recovered from the pandemic.

Biden has received updates from CEOs on how shipments are being expedited to ensure store shelves are well stocked this holiday season, according to a White House official. Bloomberg News first reported on Biden’s conversations with business leaders.

Yet the concrete policy measures discussed by the administration show that there is no silver bullet to the supply chain problems that still hurt small businesses and force consumers to face higher prices. The administration also can’t build a nationwide broadband network fast enough, as more Americans turn to remote working.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo pointed out during the White House briefing the $ 65 billion for broadband access in the $ 1 trillion infrastructure package that the House authorized on Friday. She said jobs would be created and poorer Americans would benefit from “affordable” internet service, although she did not specify the precise amount of monthly bills.

The plan involves careful logistics that would take time to implement. Each state would receive at least $ 100 million to help lay fiber optic cables and ensure that its citizens can access the Internet. This process would occur as job seekers increasingly demand remote work where they can work from home on their computers.

“The president wants us to do things right,” Raimondo said. “And if it takes a little longer to set the stage for fiber and broadband, then we’re going to do it.”

Likewise, the administration on Tuesday announced plans to identify and pay for possible upgrades to U.S. ports within the next 90 days – in hopes of ultimately curbing inflation caused by waiting ships. docking and the shortage of truck drivers to transport the goods.

As the United States emerges from the coronavirus pandemic, the economic recovery has been hampered by congested and aging ports. The mixture of inflation and the possibility of emptying store shelves during holiday shopping has created a sense of frustration for many Americans and has hurt President Joe Biden and Democrats politically.

Senior administration officials said on Tuesday that the transportation department will allow port authorities to redirect any money left over from grant projects to address supply chain issues. For example, the Georgia Port Authority will use $ 8 million to convert its indoor facilities into container parks, freeing up space on the docks and speeding up the flow of goods to their final destination.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss upcoming plans, which follow House support for the bipartisan infrastructure package on Friday evening. The package includes $ 17 billion to improve coastal and land ports that can help address longer-term challenges.

Biden’s team is moving forward in promoting the possible benefits of the broader infrastructure package, although they have largely avoided claiming that Americans could see clear and demonstrable changes in their lives ahead of the election. midterm 2022. Instead, the focus has been on how spending on roads, bridges, and broadband will help the U.S. economy compete with the rest of the world.

Administration officials said the port initiatives announced on Tuesday would make the supply chain faster, more efficient and more environmentally friendly in the medium to long term.

Biden will highlight the administration’s efforts by visiting the Port of Baltimore on Wednesday. It’s part of a larger effort to show the administration will tackle inflation that has left Americans feeling more pessimistic about the economy. The updated Consumer Price Index figures will be released on Wednesday, with the previous report showing prices were 5.4% higher than a year ago.

The trip to Baltimore is designed to highlight the types of investments that the administration says will help unblock the supply chain. The Port of Baltimore is adding container cranes and a 50-foot berth where ships can be unloaded. The administration also approved grants so that the Howard Street Tunnel – a railway artery opened in 1895 – could be expanded to carry double-decker containers on rail cars.

The Biden administration had previously helped negotiate a deal to increase the hours of operation for the Port of Los Angeles, but it was difficult to immediately resolve this issue.

Additional steps include launching a $ 240 million grant program over the next 45 days to modernize seaports and highways. Within 60 days, the government wants to identify repair projects and opportunities to deepen ports for larger ships that can be a guide to more than $ 4 billion in construction by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The government will also review over the next 90 days which ports of entry should be upgraded and expanded as part of a $ 3.4 billion investment. It also plans within 90 days to open the first round of more than $ 475 million in subsidies for ports made possible by the new infrastructure package adopted.

The Ministry of Transport intends to publish a manual for states on the movement of goods and to publish advice on best practices, so that the value of investments in infrastructure can be maximized. There will also be a request for information by the transport department to improve data collection and sharing to improve supply chain efficiency and transparency.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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