Biden’s Advisers Urge Amazon, Home Depot to Keep Baltimore Jobs

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden’s advisers have called major Baltimore employers — including Inc. and Home Depot Inc. — to encourage them to retain jobs despite the bridge collapse that shut the city’s port, according to people familiar with the matter.

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White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients and top economic adviser Lael Brainard have phoned executives from large retailers and distributors following the March 26 downing of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, the people said. They have sought voluntary commitments to refrain from dismissals and asked companies to announce those intentions to provide certainty to jobs markets, according to the people.

Terminal operator Ports America also was a target of the outreach, as were auto companies, with the administration officials seeking to ensure disruptions in supply chains were minimized, the people said.

The Key bridge disaster poses a fresh challenge for Biden, who is battling voter skepticism of his economic stewardship as he vies for a second term. Widespread job loss or disruptions caused by snarled operations at the Port of Baltimore could revive supply-chain fears that had subsided following the pandemic.

It’s unclear if large companies were planning to cut their workforce as a result of the bridge collapse. Representatives for Amazon and Home Depot did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Biden will travel to Baltimore on Friday to survey damage and speak with local officials. The president has said the federal government ought to pay to rebuild the bridge, a major transportation artery for the eastern seaboard and a commuter route.

The administration has released $60 million in emergency funds to defray rebuilding costs, but the reconstruction is expected to cost billions and policymakers have yet to release a funding proposal.

White House officials are examining regulations or requirements the federal government could leverage to speed rebuilding, but it is unlikely regulations will be waived, the people said. Federal agencies have explored the possibility of having design and engineering work done simultaneously, and have considered using the existing bridge foundation to support a new span, according to the people.

--With assistance from Olivia Rockeman and Spencer Soper.

(Updates with Biden visit to Baltimore starting in sixth paragraph)

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