Tell DHS and the White House to Suspend the Jones Act for Hurricane Maria Relief
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Every day I look for news on recovery and relief for the people of Puerto Rico whose island has been decimated by Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Jose. The news seems to be getting worse with only specs of good news in between. This news is especially heavy on my heart since I have family members on the island who are elderly and are dependent on medical treatment and medication such as dialysis and insulin. I have no way of knowing if they are OK and if they have received any aid as communication on the island has been destroyed. The people of Puerto Rico are in dire need of food, water, diesel and propane fuel, and medical supplies. The process has been slow in part to the Jones Act.
Under Section 27 of the Jones Act the law states that only American ships can carry goods and passengers from one United States port to another. In addition, every ship must be built, crewed and owned by American citizens. Therefore any foreign vessel wishing to bring goods into Puerto Rico must first dock in Florida, unload its supplies and then be reloaded on American vessel. They are then subjected to punitive tariffs, fees and taxes, which are passed on to the Puerto Rican consumer which dramatically increases the cost of goods. The Jones Act is preventing the speedy and cost effective delivery of desperately needed aid to the island of Puerto Rico.
An example of how the Jones Act is disrupting the much needed aid would be if aid came from Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. The Dominican Republic is 257 miles away from San Juan, Puerto Rico. At that distance, it would take a vessel from the Dominican Republic to travel approximately 12 hours to reach Puerto Rico. Instead, the vessel is rerouted to Florida to go through the process of unloading and loading to a US vessel. The approximate distance from the Dominican Republic to Florida is 1362 miles. In its current state, Puerto Rico does not have time for this mode of transportation to occur. The recovery has to be immediate.
The DHS issued a two-week waiver, requested by the Department of Defense (DOD), to allow fuel shipments to Texas and Florida after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma which proved to be valuable in speeding up recovery efforts in the impacted regions. It only makes sense to provide a waiver to Puerto Rico if similar ones were issued for the U.S. mainland. The waiver will help get gasoline and other supplies delivered more quickly and cheaply to the island and cut down all the red tape that is currently in the way of making a quicker recovery possible.
President Trump has declared that “Puerto Rico was absolutely obliterated” and issued a federal disaster declaration but much more needs to be done. DHS and the Trump administration must suspend the Jones Act in Puerto Rico.
I am asking DHS and the Trump Administration to issue a 1 year suspension to the Jones Act that has been requested by Senator John McCain. Let’s ensure the supplies and aid needed are being sent in a speedy and cost effective manner as current estimates of repairing the island are as far out as six months. What is happening in Puerto Rico is a humanitarian crisis and must be treated as such.
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