President Joe Biden on Wednesday touted progress his administration has made in alleviating supply chain issues that have spurred shortages of consumer products, raised prices for Americans and contributed significantly to historic levels of inflation in the United States.
“Packages are moving, gifts are being delivered and shelves are not empty,” Biden said at the White House.
Biden on Wednesday received a progress report from members of his Cabinet and private sector CEOs on efforts to tackle supply chain issues, lower consumer prices and keep shelves stocked amid the holiday season.
The meeting comes as the Omicron variant threatens to put renewed pressure on global supply chains that were thrown into chaos amid the pandemic — something the administration says it is watching closely.
The administration has taken several steps to address these issues, and there is evidence that bottlenecks are beginning to unclog. But businesses are still grappling with a shortage of truck drivers and some critical components, including computer chips, remain scarce.
Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Department of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and Port Envoy John Porcari will all attend the meeting on Wednesday.
Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx; Darren Hawkins, CEO of Yellow Corp; Christopher Connor, CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities; Sonia Syngal, CEO of GAP and Dave Harrison, executive director of Fastport, will attend the meeting as well.
Last month, Biden held a meeting with the CEOs of a number of major retailers and grocers to discuss the holiday shopping season. Following that meeting, the President assured Americans that shelves would be stocked and that the US was “heading into the holiday season in very strong shape.”
The administration has taken several steps to address the supply chain issues. This week, the administration is announcing $230 million in Port Infrastructure Development Grants, which the White House says is the only federal grant program dedicated to port infrastructure. The administration also recently announced its Trucking Action Plan to recruit and retain more truck drivers by improving the quality of the job.
In October, Biden directed his administration to work with companies and ports on a “90-day sprint” to alleviate bottlenecks. The Port of Los Angeles was moved to 24/7 service, which brought it into line with operations at the Port of Long Beach, which is already working on a 24/7 schedule. Those two ports handle 40% of container traffic in the US.
The administration also worked with the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach last month to impose a fee on ocean carriers if their cargo sits on docks for more than eight days. The White House says since then, the number of containers sitting on the docks for more than eight days has fallen by nearly 50%. The White House also says the price of shipping a container between Asia and the West Coast has fallen by more than 25% since its peak in September.
In order to combat high energy prices, Biden directed the Department of Energy to release 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — the largest release from the reserve in US history, Biden said. This release was announced to be in coordination with several other countries, including China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom. Officials believe the coordinated effort could potentially have more of an effect on lowering gas prices.
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