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As he appears in Maryland, Biden promises federal support to rebuild collapsed bridge • Arkansas Advocate

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DUNDALK, Maryland (AP) — President Joe Biden traveled to Maryland on Friday to tour the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge by helicopter before meeting with the families of construction workers believed or confirmed dead after the collapse last week.

Biden said he understood the families' pain over the loss of their loved ones and promised that the federal government would do everything in its power to quickly open shipping lanes to the city's port and rebuild the bridge.

“To all the families and loved ones who are grieving, I have 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 call in the middle of the night to say family members are gone,” Biden added. “I've been there. It's a feeling like you have a black hole in your chest, like you're being sucked in and you can't breathe. The anger, the pain, the depth of a loss that's so profound.”

Six deaths have been confirmed or are suspected following the collapse. The bodies of two construction workers have been recovered, four others are still missing.

The federal government, Biden said, will support Baltimore in rehabilitating and rebuilding the bridge as well as the workers whose jobs and livelihoods were affected by the bridge collapse.

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

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

“We will move heaven and earth to rebuild this bridge as quickly as possible,” Biden said. “And we will do that with unions and American steel.”

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said the six victims of the collapse and their families were in people's hearts, minds and prayers.

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

Relief for employees

Moore said he signed an executive order Friday morning authorizing $60 million “in financial relief for workers and businesses affected by the Key Bridge collapse.”

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

“The alliance is comprised of leaders who are redoubling their commitment to the city and this state,” Moore said. “Many have agreed not to lay off employees. Many have agreed to return to Baltimore, even if they have to temporarily relocate elsewhere. And everyone has agreed to help us build a better future.”

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

“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, get back up, dust ourselves off, and move on. That’s what we do.”

Maryland's congressional delegation announced in a written statement released Friday afternoon that the U.S. Department of Labor had awarded a $3.5 million grant through its emergency National Dislocated Worker Grant program “to provide temporary cleanup and… “To create recovery jobs for workers affected by the tragic collapse of Baltimore.” Francis Scott Key Bridge.”

“We will never forget the six Marylanders we lost in this tragedy, and their memories and their families are important to us at every step of this process,” the lawmakers wrote in the statement. “The collapse also had serious consequences for our state’s economy, but the reality is that the entire country depends on the Port of Baltimore, so the impact is felt far and wide.”

“This tragedy has cost small businesses and hundreds of thousands of workers reliable income and revenue,” they added. “With this funding we hope to ease some of the economic burden and provide stability in a time of uncertainty and sadness as teams work to restore the port as quickly and safely as possible.”

White House budget director Shalanda Young wrote to Congress on Friday ahead of the visit, urging lawmakers to approve “a 100 percent federal cost share for bridge reconstruction.”

“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,” Young wrote.

U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, all Democrats, were with Biden at the Friday event and pledged to help push any necessary legislation through Congress.

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