Baltimore Key Bridge collapse: Maryland lawmakers approve bill to help port employees

A bill to help employees at the Port of Baltimore who have been affected by the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse was approved by the Maryland General Assembly in the last hours of the legislative session Monday night.

The bill authorizes the state to use its rainy day fund to help out-of-work port employees who are not covered under unemployment insurance during the time the port is closed or partially closed.

The bill also allows Governor Wes Moore to use state reserves to help some small businesses avoid laying people off. Maryland funds can also be used to persuade companies that relocate to other ports to return to Baltimore when it reopens.

Gov. Wes Moore, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and Maryland lawmakers discuss the federal response to the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore.

President Joe Biden saw the devastation first-hand last week when he toured the collapse sight. The bridge collapsed during the early morning hours of March 26 after it was struck by the cargo ship Dali which had lost power just after leaving the port on its way to Sri Lanka.

READ MORE: Biden promises support for Baltimore during visit to Key Bridge collapse site

Six workers who were part of a construction crew filling potholes on the bridge, died in the collapse.

Efforts to clear away the twisted remains of the collapsed bridge, which is blocking the Port of Baltimore’s main shipping channel, began shortly after the span fell into the Patapsco River. 

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The twisted remains of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge following its collapse after being struck by a massive container ship during the early morning hours of March 26. (FOX 5 DC)

Two temporary channels were opened last week allowing a limited amount of marine traffic to bypass wreckage of the bridge. Biden said he is hopeful that the full channel will open by the end of May.

The collapse of Baltimore’s Key Bridge is diverting shipping and trucking around one of the busiest ports on America’s East Coast, causing major economic and travel disruptions to the region.

READ MORE: New 3D images show wreckage underwater as salvage operation continues

The port is the busiest in the U.S. for car shipments, handling more than 750,000 vehicles in 2023, according to data from the Maryland Port Administration. As much as $200 million in cargo typically moves through the port daily. The waterway is a major route for shipping containers and cruise liners and is the deepest harbor in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay.

The four-lane bridge became the final link to Interstate 695, Baltimore’s beltway, when it was completed in 1977. It is a critical link for trucking and motor vehicles connecting Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York to the nation’s capital. It carried nearly 30,000 vehicles a day.

The Associated Press contributed to this report