Help Sails In For Businesses Hurt By Baltimore Bridge Collapse

baltimore bridge collapse impact

Legal Options Emerge as Bridge Collapse Cripples Baltimore Businesses

Maryland businesses are struggling to mitigate the economic impact of the March 26 collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge three weeks on, with some businesses ground to a halt by delayed shipments and supply chain backups.

Now, it seems help is finally on the horizon. 

State legislators have been scrambling to put together an aid package for businesses that rely on shipments and traffic through the Port of Baltimore. This week, millions of dollars of loans and grants will become available to local businesses impacted by the collapse. 

On April 16, the Washington County Department of Business and Economic Development announced financial assistance was coming for local businesses after the Maryland governor recently signed the PORT Act into law. The act creates programs aimed at assisting businesses and workers affected by the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Read on for more details.

Bridge collapse cripples Baltimore businesses

The Francis Scott Key Bridge fell last month after being hit by a cargo ship that lost power. The collapse has caused far-reaching consequences for the people of Maryland and the state’s economy, and cost the lives of six bridge workers. 

The dramatic fall of the 1970s bridge has seen supply chains and traffic majorly interrupted, the port all but shut down, local businesses without their usual customers, and officials rushing to pick up the pieces. Overall, the lengthy port closure is expected to cost up to $4 billion in insured losses, making it the most expensive ship collision for insurers in modern history, the Washington Post reports

According to Baltimore Development Corporation President and CEO Colin Tarbert, there are around 20,000 local jobs tied directly to the port, NBC News reported, and nearly 140,000 additional jobs affected by the port’s activities.

While two alternative channels into the port have been opened since the collapse, with a third due to be open later this month, the main shipping channel still remains closed. That proves a major problem for the port, which ranks first in the country for the volume of automobiles and light trucks it handles, according to The New York Times, as well as for vessels that carry wheeled cargo, including farm and construction machinery. 

Terminals in Baltimore transported a record $80 billion worth of foreign cargo in 2023, totalling 52.3 million tons.

Some businesses with enough capital have already changed their routes to reduce impact. Royal Caribbean International moved its Vision of the Seas ship to sail from the port in Norfolk, Virginia, Maryland Matters reported. And CSX Corp., a major freight rail company, decided to add a new train route to bring supplies from Baltimore to New York.

Delays and disruptions in the supply chain

The supply chain issues have hit some Baltimore small businesses hard in the pocket. 

Garden Artisans sells gardening supplies, doing business with city beautification projects across the country, said Kerry Kelley, Garden Artisans' sales and marketing manager.

The company sources products from around the world, and Kelley told 11 News they were waiting on a container full of products for specific projects that was delayed at sea.

The shipment was on a vessel that was supposed to arrive at the Port of Baltimore the day after the Key Bridge collapsed. Instead, it had to be redirected to New York, and then trucked to Baltimore, costing the company time and money, and bugging customers, Kelley said.

"They really can't wait. They've got to get the stuff up, get the things planted and get it done and we're sitting here waiting for all that to get here.”

PORT Act unveiled

The news programs and grants announced under the PORT Act could help businesses like Garden Artisans. 

The programs available include grants up to $100,000 to businesses that have had operations impacted or shipments disrupted at the Port of Baltimore, grants up to $50,000 to main street level businesses within a five-mile radius of the Key Bridge and loans of up to $500,000 to businesses impacted by the Key Bridge collapse.

Meanwhile, businesses that have seen operations hindered by or completely halted due to the Port slowdown can seek up to $200,000 in grant funding to pay and retain workers. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration said more than 1,000 businesses in the Baltimore area have already applied for emergency loans following the bridge collapse.

Don't wait: Explore legal options to mitigate losses

If your employment or business—be it retail, wholesale, or another sector—is intertwined with industries reliant on the bridge and port, or if these closures have disrupted your access to customers, see if you are eligible for federal or state assistance through the PORT Act

You may also want to consider exploring legal avenues to mitigate the impact on your operations and secure necessary compensation for your losses.

If your job or business wasn’t impacted by this disaster, it is still a good reminder of the vulnerability of supply chains and a chance to think about your emergency plan.



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