On September 22, U.S. Representative Nydia M. Velázquez led seven Members of Congress in writing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security calling for the Jones Act to be temporarily waived to expedite supplies being shipped into Puerto Rico’s ports in order to accelerate its recovery from Hurricane Fiona, which hit the island on September 18.
“The island is now facing an unprecedented uphill battle to rebuild its homes, businesses, and communities,” wrote the lawmakers. “Temporarily loosening these requirements – for the express purpose of disaster recovery – will allow Puerto Rico to have more access to the oil needed for its power plants, food, medicines, clothing, and building supplies.”
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, requires that goods shipped from one American port to another be transported on a ship that is American-built, American owned and crewed by U.S. citizens or permanent residents. In the case of disaster relief, the Jones Act stifles ships to be able to mobilize quickly, delaying any shipment of goods and supplies.
In addition to Velázquez, the letter was signed by Representatives: Jesús G. “Chuy” García, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Juan Vargas, Ritchie Torres, Raúl M. Grijalva, Carolyn B. Maloney, and Adriano Espaillat.
The NYC Council called for Jones Act waiver in Puerto Rico on September 26. On September 28, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas released a statement that the Department of Homeland Security will approve a temporary and targeted Jones Act Waiver in order to address Puerto Rico’s immediate needs in the wake of Hurricane Fiona.