LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A day after President Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package into law, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke about efforts underway to clear the supply-chain backlog at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Buttigieg appeared on a video call from Washington D.C. with Southern California port officials to emphasize that clearing the backlog is a top priority for the administration.
In recent months, dozens of ships have been anchored off the coast near the ports, unable to offload their goods for days or weeks.
That has left many retailers warning of expected shortages on store shelves as the holiday shopping season begins.
The executive director of the Port of Los Angeles says there has been improvement in the last month, including a 29% drop in cargo sitting unloaded for nine days or more.
Buttigieg blames underinvestment in port infrastructure, unprecedented consumer demand and the global pandemic for supply-chain issues.
He says short-term solutions to correcting bottlenecks include encouraging more 18 to 21 year olds to begin careers in truck driving, as well as steps like operating the ports 24/7.
He added that becoming operational 24/7 won't be entirely effective unless the importers adjust their work hours.
Buttigieg's office says the infrastructure package includes almost $50 billion for ports and airports nationwide to strengthen supply chains.
He closed by encouraging more Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Besides the health issues, the pandemic is affecting the economy and is one of the reasons behind the supply-chain disruptions.
One of the measures enacted recently by the Long Beach and Los Angeles ports was fining shipping companies for failing to unload cargo and clear out containers in a timely manner. The fines were set to start Monday of this week, but the ports say companies are making progress on improving the situation, so the fines won't start until at least next week.