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Interim Newsletter




The Maryland PORT Act


      The immense loss of the Francis Scott Key Bridge cannot be overstated. The Key Bridge provided a reliable transportation route for 11 million crossings per year and allowed commercial vehicles to drop off and pick up cargo at the Port of Baltimore (the Port). The collapse has greatly diminished the capacity of the Port, which accounts for 346,137 direct, induced, and indirect jobs in Maryland (“induced jobs” are generated by local spending on goods and services by employees of the port [for example, nearby restaurants]; an “indirect job” is employment that exists to produce the goods and services needed by the workers with direct jobs to perform their duties [for example, machinery repair or office supplies]). The Port handles an enormous volume of goods and is one of the major shipping hubs of the United States.

 

      In 2023, it ranked first among all ports in the entire nation for handling the highest volume of several goods. These include automobiles and light trucks (847,158 vehicles total), heavy farm and construction machinery (1.3 million tons total), and imported sugar and gypsum. The success of the Port rests in the state and federal government’s continued investment in its operation, as demonstrated through the new Seagirt cranes. These cranes are state-of-the-art and enable optimal productivity and efficiency, which are necessary traits to match the increasing trade demands that the Port has attracted from domestic and international business. The collapse of the bridge has severely limited Maryland’s ability to capitalize on the strategic advantage of our inland Port, particularly due to the debris that is blocking the maritime channels provided by the depths of the Chesapeake Bay.

 

      Apart from the regional impact, there is a local impact as well. 1,167 residents of Harford County are directly employed by the Port. In response to this disaster, I am pleased to report on the progress of SB 1188, the Maryland Protecting Opportunities and Regional Trade (PORT) Act, which the General Assembly passed expeditiously. This bill helps alleviate many issues facing residents who are impacted by the Key Bridge collapse. For example, the PORT Act will establish a temporary financial relief program to aid individuals who regularly performed work at the Port of Baltimore who are now unable to work and cannot otherwise receive unemployment insurance benefits. This will allow hardworking individuals and their families to stay afloat financially as the Port slowly becomes operational (as debris is cleared) or seek other employment.

 

      This legislation will also help small businesses, trade associations, and other companies associated with the operations of the Port, allowing these entities to maintain their workforce at the rates of pay and benefits that were in effect before the reduced operations resulting from the collapse. This provision is important because it will keep businesses in Maryland while debris is cleared, as opposed to businesses relocating to other ports. A similar program will also be in place for businesses with diverted operations to other regional ports that are committed to continuing operations at the Port of Baltimore once it resumes functioning at full capacity. Additionally, the bill stipulates that if federal funds become available, they should be used to supplant any state funds otherwise used for the programs established under the bill. This would help to minimize the financial impact on the state budget. The Act establishes a scholarship program for the children of the workers who tragically died in the collapse as well.

 

      As the debris-clearing process continues and plans to rebuild the bridge are finalized, I will continue to closely monitor and support the efforts as your representative. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact my office at 410-841-3158 or marydulany.james@senate.state.md.us


Sincerely,


Mary-Dulany James

Senator

Harford County

Maryland General Assembly

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