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Biden Seeks to Unkink Supply Chain—Not Enough for Industry Experts

Visual of the supply chain
Some industry experts say the administration's efforts miss the mark and don’t address the biggest contributor to rising prices: Tariffs.

As roofers confront what industry leaders have called “unprecedented” material shortages, the Biden Administration has announced a new task force to address supply chain issues. But some industry experts say the efforts miss the mark and don’t address the biggest contributor to rising prices: Tariffs.  

Currently, COVID-19 related manufacturing shutdowns and weather events have created shortages across all roofing product segments including asphalt shingles, light-weight metal, fasteners, reinforcement mats, polymers and insulation, according to recent reports from NRCA. The association says roofers can expect shortages and supply chain issues to persist through the summer—and beyond.   

An unscientific IRE Business Update Flash Poll recently revealed that 94% of roofers are currently experiencing supply chain issues. And anecdotally, roofers say it's their top challenge this season.   

Those shortages are also causing price jumps in basic materials such as lumber. NAHB reports that higher lumber costs are adding more than $35,000 to the cost of new homes. Meanwhile, inflation jumped 5% in May—the highest year-over-year monthly increase since 2008, according to the latest economic reports.   

 According to the Wall Street Journal, Biden’s actions include:   

  • Using the Defense Production Act, enacted during the Korean War to spur the domestic industry to shore up the military, to form a public-private consortium for essential-medicine production. The Department of Health and Human Services will initially spend $60 million toward that goal;  
  • Tapping the Energy Department’s loan authority to invest in the production of advanced vehicle battery cells and to establish new manufacturing plants;  
  • Establishing a “trade strike force” that will propose enforcement actions against what the administration says are unfair foreign-trade practices, such as government subsidies, that have eroded critical supply chains and shore up cooperation with allies;  
  • Proposing a financing program under the U.S. Export-Import Bank for U.S. manufacturing facilities and infrastructure projects.  

While only time will tell how well these initiatives work, the roofing industry welcomes any efforts to unkink the supply chain and ease price escalations, according to Reid Ribble, NRCA CEO.   

“The U.S. roofing industry is thankful for President Biden’s interest in solving the supply chain issues the economy is experiencing. Although most raw materials for the roofing industry are already supplied from domestic sources, any effort to improve the economy through supply chain improvements is helpful,” he said in a statement supplied to IRE Business Update.   

But the AGC was less impressed with Biden’s plan. Associated General Contractors of America CEO Stephen E. Sandher issued the following statement in reaction to the announcement by the White House of actions it will take to address supply-chain disruptions:  

“The construction industry is experiencing widespread and growing problems with the cost and supply of materials. These challenges will make it more costly and difficult to achieve the administration’s goals for infrastructure, renewable energy, and affordable housing. The President could provide immediate relief from soaring prices for lumber, steel and aluminum by removing harmful tariffs and quotas. Unfortunately, the President’s recommendations ignore that quick and effective approach. Instead, these proposals would limit the ability of workers and employers to fill needed construction positions. Imposing mandated hiring percentages from certain localities and training programs, dictating inflexible labor agreements, and setting artificially high pay rates will diminish the number of firms and workers available to carry out vital infrastructure and other construction programs.”  

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