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Worker, business relief programs for Key Bridge collapse start to wind down

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Worker, business relief programs for Key Bridge collapse start to wind down

Jun 14, 2024 | 3:39 pm ET
By Maryland Matters Staff
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Worker, business relief programs for Key Bridge collapse start to wind down
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A photo from late May, when salvage work on the Fort McHenry channel was still under way, but crews had managed to open limited access to the Port of Baltimore. The channel was fully reopened this week. Photo courtesy Maryland State Police Aviation Command.

State officials said Friday that they are winding down temporary worker and business assistance programs that were put in place in the wake of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse.

Applications will close on June 28 for the Maryland Department of Labor’s worker support program, which provides temporary relief to workers who lost income from reduced operations at the Port of Baltimore; the Maryland Department of Commerce’s business assistance program; and the Department of Housing and Community Development’s small-business grant program. Housing and Community Development’s small-business loan program will stop accepting applications on Aug. 15.

A worker-retention program for businesses run by the Labor Department stopped accepting applications on May 17.

The assistance programs were part of Protecting Opportunities and Regional Trade, or PORT Act, that was passed shortly after the March 26 crash, when the container ship Dali lost power and struck the Key Bridge. The collision sent the center span of the bridge tumbling into the Patapsco River, killing six road workers who were on the bridge at the time and blocking the shipping channel into the Port of Baltimore. That cut off business to firms in the port and left port workers temporarily out of work.

In announcing the sunset dates for the assistance programs, Gov. Wes Moore’s office said Friday that the programs had provided $37.4 million in assistance since they were started in early April, and $22 million to support businesses located in the Baltimore metropolitan region. The administration said 2,800 workers received direct financial assistance and it claimed that more than 3,000 jobs were protected from layoffs.

Moore said that with bipartisan support and cooperation, the state “stood up financial relief programs at incredible speed, avoiding mass layoffs and deep financial pain for countless workers and businesses.”

State and federal officials announced this week that the last of the bridge debris had been removed from the Fort McHenry Federal Channel in the Patapsco River, fully reopening shipping lanes to and from the port. Efforts now turn to bridge replacement, a process that is likely to take years and cost up to $1.9 billion under current estimates.