Port backup may lead to health risks for some in wheelchairs

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Crippling congestion at the ports along California's coast is already projected to cause shortages of toys and other goods on store shelves this holiday season.

But it is also impacting other businesses, some of them critical to the health and well-being of Californians.

Leonard Graves of New Solutions says the backup of cargo ships at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is keeping his business from providing wheelchair parts to repair shops. That could have significant health effects, possibly even fatal, on those who rely on functioning wheelchairs.

Graves sells wheelchair parts to repair shops and manufacturers, but he's been waiting for orders since January.

"This is a crisis," Graves said. "This is life and death for a lot of people."

State lawmakers, as well as local officials, have been working on solutions to the logistics crisis.

On Wednesday, the California State Assembly and Senate Select Committees on Ports and Goods Movement discussed the congestion.

"Our current congestion crisis was caused by a perfect storm of factors, from increased consumer demand to COVID-19 shutdowns to a lack of sufficient infrastucture, like on-dock rail and storage space, to a shortage of available materials like chassis and containers," California Assembly Member Patrick O'Donnell said.

A Port of Los Angeles spokesperson told Eyewitness News that as of Wednesday, there were 79,189 imports on L.A. docks. This represents a 13% drop in imports compared to the previous week.

The Port of Los Angeles is also trying to address the issue. One new measure is a fine on lingering containers.

According to the spokesperson, the port started tracking containers on Nov. 1, and fines will go into effect no earlier than Nov. 15.

The export industry is suffering too, like agriculture products.

"Farmers are seeing a 20% reduction in their export opportunities," Assembly Member Vince Fong said.

"I'm hoping dearly that the port of Oakland, which is experiencing a 50% capacity right now, has the ability to be a part of the solution which has the capacity and the workforce to help alleviate the supply-chain backlog, limiting the idling and additional emissions that communities in L.A. and. Long Beach are experiencing right now," Assembly Member Mia Bonta said.

Whatever the solution, Graves, who has been in a wheelchair himself for more than 30 years, said it needs to come fast because some can't wait another day for their order.

"Well, I know a lot of people are concerned about not getting Christmas presents, but I'm concerned about our customers and their customers not having the parts to fix their wheelchairs," Graves said. "They're gonna be laying in bed. And dying."

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