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White House channels infrastructure funds to snarled ports

·2-min read
Snarls at American ports have exacerbated supply chain woes that are threatening to wreak havoc on the 2021 Christmas shopping season (AFP/Frederic J. BROWN)

As overwhelmed American ports leave ships carrying goods for the Christmas shopping season idling, the White House on Tuesday said funds from a recently passed infrastructure overhaul would be used to sort out the snarls.

The $1.2 trillion bill Congress passed last week with both Democratic and Republican votes was a boost for President Joe Biden as he faces low approval ratings amid rising inflation driven in part by the troubles at ports nationwide.

In a call with reporters, senior administration officials said ports will be allowed to direct leftover funds from other projects towards efforts to relieve congestion immediately.

While the president has yet to sign the bill into law, the officials said that within the next 60 days, the Army Corps of Engineers will begin designating port and inland waterway projects where $4 billion it allocates for their modernization can be spent.

The government will also begin the process of modernizing the country's border inspection facilities over the next 90 days.

"It's important to point out that the entire goods movement system is assisted greatly through the bipartisan bill," one of the officials told reporters.

The supply chain snarls are a global phenomenon spurred by economies reopening following the historic downturn last year, but they have been blamed for causing delays and shortages of goods that have pushed US inflation higher.

The White House had earlier announced the Port of Los Angeles would begin 24-hour operations to address the many ships waiting offshore to unload.

The steps unveiled Tuesday will allow the Port of Savannah, on the US East Coast, to use money from a previous government grant to build a pop-up container terminal about 100 miles (160 kilometers) inland to relieve its backlogs.

Over the next 45 days, the government will also allocate $240 million from the Port Infrastructure Development Program grants to improve capacity nationwide, the official said.

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