Quijano Calls for Jones Act Suspension in Wake of Hurricane Maria

Quijano Calls for Jones Act Suspension in Wake of Hurricane Maria

WWI-era Law Impedes Delivery of Goods During Crisis


(TRENTON) – Assemblywoman Annette Quijano is urging the federal government to waive enforcement of a World War I-era shipping law that is impeding Hurricane Maria relief and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico.

“The Trump administration has a responsibility to do everything in its power to assist the people of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the most devastating hurricane to hit the island in generations,” said Quijano, chair of the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee. “Allowing an antiquated law to get in the way of sending help while our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico suffer is utterly irresponsible and unconscionable.”

Under the 1920 Jones Act, ships used to transport goods between U.S. ports must be American-made, American-owned and at least 75 percent crewed by Americans. Any ship that does not meet these criteria must pay a fee for entry, which serves as a deterrent to foreign entities delivering much-needed supplies to Puerto Rico. The law, which for decades has impeded the growth of the Puerto Rican economy, is significantly more pernicious in the wake of the recent hurricane, Quijano said.

In order to send goods to Puerto Rico, a foreign vessel must first go to the U.S. mainland and then to the island, thus delaying assistance in the midst of devastation. In addition to hindering the response to immediate needs, the Jones Act, which ultimately makes the price of goods much higher than on the U.S. mainland, also will have a long-term negative effect on the economy as Puerto Rico rebounds from the disaster, Quijano said.

“For too long, a law originally intended to protect Puerto Rico has done nothing but cause the island harm. Unfortunately, that truth is evident now more than ever before,” said Quijano. “As our fellow Americans on the island desperately await clean water and other basic supplies, it’s time for the federal government to step up and act to invest in the future of Puerto Rico. That starts with suspension of the Jones Act.”

Quijano intends to introduce legislation in the Assembly urging permanent repeal of the Jones Act. Federal legislation to repeal the law, The Open America’s Waters Act of 2017, was introduced in July and awaits action by Congress.

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