Today Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL) and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) introduced H.R. 3966, the Puerto Rico Humanitarian Relief Act, providing a 5 year moratorium of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly known as the Jones Act. The Jones Act requires any goods shipped to Puerto Rico from a U.S. port be carried in a U.S. owned, U.S. crewed, U.S. built, and U.S. flagged vessel. According to a 2010 study at the University of Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico loses $537 million every year due to the Jones Act. The Puerto Rico Humanitarian Relief Act would provide relief from this burdensome regulation and allow Puerto Rico the opportunity to rebuild their island without added costs and delays caused by the requirements of the Jones Act.
Congressman Gary Palmer:
"The Congress has the responsibility to act when enacted laws prove to be burdensome. This is especially true in a humanitarian crisis. Our bill provides Puerto Ricans with extended relief from the Jones Act to help them put their lives back together as they rebuild their homes, their communities and their infrastructure. The cost of goods in Puerto Rico is already substantially higher due to Jones Act related shipping costs, and, especially in a humanitarian crisis, every penny counts."
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez:
"Puerto Rico has a long, difficult road ahead of it and the Jones Act will serve only to impede its physical and economic recovery. As the Island struggles to rebuild, it should not be saddled with the burden of paying significantly more for construction materials and other goods, compared to the mainland. Moreover, a long term waiver of the Jones Act will stimulate economic activity. I have already called on the President to, at minimum, exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act for at least one year and I'm proud to co-author this bipartisan measure seeking a five-year waiver. Importantly, this bill also requires a full study of the Jones Act's economic impact, so we have the empirical data to end this debate once and for all."
According to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, it costs $3,063 to ship a twenty-foot container from the East Coast of the United States to Puerto Rico and $1504 to ship the same container to the nearby Dominican Republic--a destination not subject to the Jones Act. Higher shipping costs could significantly delay efforts to rebuild its economy and rebuild the communities devastated by Hurricane Maria.