U.S. Senator Ben Cardin

Letters From Ben

April 6, 2024

A Total Eclipse

Dear Fellow Marylanders,

We’re just days away from the next total solar eclipse. On Monday, April 8, using appropriate safety glasses, we’ll watch together as the moon crosses the sun’s path and block its light. Those in what is called the path of totality will experience darkness for minutes during the middle of the day. It’s an incredibly rare phenomenon that won’t happen again for another 20 years. Rare events create a sense of unity and solidarity, and that is most apparent in times of crisis.

When a section of Interstate-95, one of the country’s busiest interstates collapsed in Philadelphia, repairing the highway was the only topic of conversation. President Biden put the project above anything else saying, “There’s no more important project to the country right now, as far as I’m concerned.” With state and federal support, and the country behind them, the highway was repaired and reopened in less than two weeks.

When wildfires ravaged Maui, states sent boots on the ground to Hawaii, and the federal government stepped up to help build housing for displaced residents. Early this year, when unusual storms caused massive flood damage in Southern California, without hesitation, we provided disaster relief to help homeowners impacted by the flood.

In 2007, when the I-35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, the Republican Senator from Minnesota, Norm Coleman, asked for federal support from his colleagues. Within in days after the accident, Congress had sent a bill to President Bush’s desk that authorized a fully federally funded rebuild.

And, barely two weeks ago, when the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapsed, leaders in Maryland and across the country came together to respond to the crisis.

From day one of this disaster, I’ve received calls from colleagues on both sides of the aisle voicing their support for Baltimore and rebuilding the bridge. While there have been a handful of extremists who have tried to say that “it’s not the government’s job to fix it,” President Biden and the majority of the members of Congress have demonstrated that this is exactly the job of the federal government – stepping in during times of national and regional crises.

Approved within hours of the request, federal emergency relief funds have been helping on the scene and surrounding area. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has brought in its own experts, along with monster cranes to haul away the remnants of the bridge in 200-300-ton pieces. 

Leading the economic relief has been Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), who swiftly approved an emergency declaration and, this Thursday, led a roundtable in Baltimore to hear from local businesses affected by the bridge’s collapse. The SBA has made low-interest, long-term Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) available to affected business owners to help them overcome temporary loss of revenue. The SBA also moved swiftly to open two Business Recovery Centers (BRC) in Baltimore and Dundalk to assist business owners in completing their disaster loan applications.

The U.S. Department of Labor has been working around the clock to lessen the economic blow of this disaster which affected so many small businesses, longshoremen, port workers and individuals in the Baltimore metropolitan region and beyond. On Friday, they announced $3.5 million in federal grants to help these displaced workers.

Natural disasters can happen at any time, anywhere in the country. They do not discriminate between Democrats and Republicans, or between red and blue states. Disasters are not partisan, and our response to them should not be either.

Americans are as interconnected as the roads and bridges that link the country, and we have always been able to rely on our neighbors in times of crisis. Right now, Baltimore and its portal to the nation and the world is in need, and our national response is proving that nothing can eclipse the collective strength and support of the country.

Thank you for your time. Please feel free to reply to this email with your thoughts on this or any other topic. I appreciate all the feedback we receive.

In solidarity,