As a humanitarian crisis unfolds in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island last week, the U.S. government’s response has been criticized, the media has dropped the ball on coverage, and the President has spent all his time tweeting personal insults at professional athletes exercising their right to free speech. Polling shows that 46% of Americans don’t even know that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.
No excuse, guys.
What many of us also (excusably) don’t know is that an archaic century old shipping law, called the Jones Act, has been hindering disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico. The law, passed during World War I to prevent U boat attacks around the U.S. territory, requires goods shipped between points in the United States to be carried by vessels built, owned, and (mostly) operated by Americans. Any foreign registry vessel that enters Puerto Rico must pay punitive tariffs, fees and taxes, or reroute to Florida where all the goods are transferred to an American vessel and then shipped back to Puerto Rico (where all costs are passed on to the Puerto Rican consumer, of course). It’s all kinda complicated but there is a simple, practical result of the Jones Act, that makes it hard in Puerto Rico even in the best of times: things are really expensive.
On Thursday, in response to a letter from 8 members of Congress, the Trump administration waived the Jones Act to aid recovery from Maria -- but for just 7 days. Recovery will take much longer than a week, and Puerto Ricans need affordable goods and supplies. Proponents of the waiver, including John McCain, argue that the Jones Act must be repealed outright to ensure long-term viability for Puerto Rico.
All-of-us must help our fellow citizens.
- Call your Members of Congress and ask them to push for extension of the Jones Act waiver to aid in recovery efforts. To take it further, call for repeal.
- Sign this petition calling for longer term solutions to the U.S. relationship with Puerto Rico.
- Donate to on-the-ground relief efforts in Puerto Rico. United for Puerto Rico or Unicef are two good options.