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Celebrating infrastructure bill in Baltimore, Biden addresses inflation, supply chain concerns

Amid concerns about rising consumer prices and delays in the supply chain, President Biden spoke at the Port of Baltimore, heralding the infrastructure bill as a solution to these economic woes.

WASHINGTON (CN) — President Joe Biden will sign the historic $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law next week, a pivotal moment in his presidency that he marked Wednesday afternoon during a speech at the Port of Baltimore where he also assured Americans that the legislation will alleviate concerns about inflation and provide long-term support for the international supply chain.

The massive legislation renews previous funding and boasts $550 billion in new investments in bridges, roadways, broadband internet and efforts to combat climate change. It includes $17 billion in funding for ports, a critical investment amid concerns about the impacts of Covid-19 on the supply chain and manufacturers' ability to get products in the hand of consumers.

"Last week we took a monumental step forward as a nation, and we did something long overdue and long talked about in Washington but not often done,” Biden said Wednesday.

Biden heralded the legislation, which he is expected to sign Monday, for its emphasis on making American infrastructure resilient to climate change. Signaling the work yet to do, however, he noted the Build Back Better Act, a social infrastructure bill still awaiting a vote in the House, would buoy the package by creating an estimated 1.5 million jobs a year for the next decade.

“This is a once-in-a-generation investment to create good paying jobs, modernize infrastructure, turn the climate crisis into an opportunity," Biden said.

While the legislation aims to expand employment, Biden noted that the country has seen a continued decline in new unemployment claims for the past six weeks. From the start of his presidency, Biden said, claims are down 70%.

Standing against a backdrop of ships in a shipping center older than the United States itself, Biden acknowledged concerns about climbing inflation.

“Everything from a gallon of gas to a loaf of bread costs more, and it's worrisome even though wages are going up," Biden said.

A Consumer Price Index Report released Wednesday morning documented a 6.2% rise in prices from October 2020 to October 2021, the largest annual increase in consumer prices in 30 years.

Biden said the infrastructure bill will alleviate inflationary pressures by reducing bottlenecks and speeding up the delivery of goods long term.

To address the high demand and low supply of goods, the combination of which has put a strain on the supply chain and left consumers frustrated by long shipping times and empty store shelves, Biden spoke on his recently announced port plan, which will increase financial support for ports in need over the next three months.

"The global supply chains have helped dramatically bring down the price we pay for things we buy, but they also made us much more reliant on what happens in other parts of the world," Biden said. "So if a factory in Malaysia shuts down because of Covid outbreak, which they have, it causes a ripple effect that can slow down auto manufacturing in Detroit."

The Biden administration also reached a deal last month with the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach to staff the ports 24/7.

Biden said the combination of these shorter-term measures and the investments of the infrastructure bill will revitalize the supply chain.

“We’re the only country in the world, as a matter of history, that every crisis we’ve faced, we’ve come out better on the other side,” Biden said.

Setting his sights not just on combatting the impacts of Covid-19 on the United States, Biden focused on international economic competition, referring to the infrastructure legislation as a critical step forward for the United States on the world stage.

"Never again should we have to rely on one company or one country, particularly when a country doesn't share our values. I've said it before, we're in a competition for the 21st century. Who's going to own it?" Biden said.

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