1 of 6 | President Joe Biden meets with his Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force and private sector CEOs to update progress on getting goods moving, keeping shelves stocked and lowering prices on Wednesday. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 22 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden met on Wednesday with top Cabinet officials and private CEOs to evaluate supply chain disruptions that have plagued industries for months due to COVID-19, and sounded a confident note that supplies are far better off now than they were 10 months ago.
Biden made the remarks after meeting with his Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, which he created in June to address critical disruptions in global supply lines.
Although some issues remain, like a shortage of truck drivers nationwide, Biden said shipments coming into U.S. ports are now moving and products are being delivered.
"Packages are moving. Gifts are being delivered. Shelves are not empty," Biden said, adding that his administration's efforts with port officials in California helped bring dozens of outcast cargo ships to shore.
Since October, major ports in the Los Angeles area have been running 24 hours a day and retailers like Walmart, Target and Home Depot have been open longer during the day in an effort to relieve the slowdowns.
Biden said that 90% of stores have been able to fill their shelves, and sidestep concerns about possible product shortages over the holidays.
The president decided last month to use 50 million barrels from the United States' emergency oil reserve to alleviate gasoline prices. Wednesday, he said that nearly half of all states now have gas prices at historic averages after price spikes during the fall.
Shipping containers are seen at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore, Md., on November 10. For months, U.S. ports have seen slowdowns in deliveries due to pandemic-related disruptions in the global supply chain. File Photo Leigh Vogel/UPI
In his remarks, Biden made another plea for the Senate to pass his Build Back Better social spending plan, which is in jeopardy now that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he won't vote for it. Biden said the proposal would lower the costs of healthcare, childcare and food.
"It is so clear this is what American families need right now," he said.
With Biden at Wednesday's meeting were port envoy John Porcari, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and the secretaries of agriculture, commerce, labor and transportation.
"One of the challenges we need to be aware of is that since we've made progress with the goods movement chain, the spotlight turns away from these issues; and before the spotlight turns away, you want to make some lasting changes that will serve the country well in the long term," Porcari told Politico.
As part of Wednesday's discussions, Biden was also expected to be pressed on finding solutions to longer-term issues in the supply lines -- not just the temporary, pandemic-related slowdowns.
"We will not have solved this problem when there are no boats sitting idle off the coast of our country and when we're not overloaded with containers in yards and in warehouses," Greg Regan, president of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department, told Politico.
"The problem is only going to be solved if we deal with the structural issues here, and I have faith that this administration is going to do that."
Wednesday's meeting comes one day after Biden updated his winter strategy for fighting COVID-19 and the surge of infections with the Omicron variant. The mutation is responsible for almost 75% of all new U.S. cases and there has been at least one death.
"I know you're tired. I really mean this, and I know you're frustrated. We all want this to be over. But we're still in it. And this is a critical moment. We also have more tools than we have ever had before. We're ready. We'll get through this," Biden said.
U.S. President Joe Biden (L) and first lady Jill Biden pet their dog, Commander, while virtually meeting with United States military service members on Christmas Day, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington, DC, on December 25, 2021. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo