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The country’s port operators called on federal lawmakers to approve billions of dollars in emergency aid as congressional leaders scramble to avert a partial government shutdown.
The American Association of Port Authorities pressed Congress to provide the industry with $3.5 billion to assist with addressing myriad challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Commercial cargo has plummeted — total waterborne trade volume is down 6.3% compared to last year, while the value of this trade has crashed by 13.9% totaling $200 billion. Passenger movements remain virtually ceased. And expenses have greatly increased due to COVID-19 protocols and precautions that we have implemented nationwide,” the group, joined by stakeholders, wrote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), as well as the chambers’ minority leaders, Dec. 9.
“To date, no dedicated funding has been provided in any of the COVID-19 legislation to assist the maritime transportation system, despite emergency relief being provided to other modes of transportation,” added the groups. Joining AAPA were the American Great Lakes Ports Association, the American Waterways Operators, the California Association of Port Authorities, and the Dredging Contractors of America.
Besides port operators, state highway agencies, the airlines, transit systems and Amtrak insist on the need for additional federal funding relief during the pandemic. The emergency aid would help to prevent disruptions along supply chains and passenger corridors, the groups argue.
A near-trillion-dollar framework recently unveiled by a bipartisan group of lawmakers proposes $45 billion for the transportation systems. The White House is proposing more than $900 billion in COVID-19 emergency aid. However, the leadership in the House and Senate has yet to finalize a new round of COVID-19 relief.
Congressional leaders suggested pandemic aid might be included in fiscal 2021 federal government legislation. The Senate has yet to consider a House-passed bill that would provide funding for agencies through Dec. 18.
The government’s funding authority expires Dec. 11. Congress intends to adjourn before Christmas.
“Our people need another dose of support as we hope to close out our battle with this virus. We should be doing everything we can to prevent layoffs, create jobs where possible, and race toward the vaccines that will end this nightmare,” McConnell said Dec. 10.
“Members of the House and Senate have been engaged in good-faith negotiations and continue to make progress,” noted Pelosi days earlier. “The bipartisan talks are the best hope for a bipartisan solution.”
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