Faced with providing hurricane battered Florida and Puerto Rico with extra fuel, the Trump Administration made a move that Heritage has advocated by temporarily suspending the Jones Act.

The Jones Act, passed in the 1920’s, is a regulation which prevented vessels from shipping between American ports unless they were using American made ships crewed by Americans.

Prior to the suspension, Salim Furth, a research fellow in Heritage’s Center for Data Analysis, wrote in The Daily Signal that “Acting immediately to waive the Jones Act will allow fuel, food, water, medicine, and rebuilding supplies to reach Puerto Rico with maximum speed and at the lowest cost.” Furth noted that not only did the Jones Act impede normal business dealings, but that it was detrimental during national disasters.

At a White House press briefing, homeland security advisor Tom Bossart admitted the concern for extra fuel was the motivation behind suspending the Jones Act saying.

“We are worried about the fuel shortages,” said Bossart. “We are bringing in as much supply of refined fuel as possible, and we’ve waived a particular statute that allows for foreign-flagged vessels to help in that effort.”

“It is encouraging to see Heritage research implemented by the Trump Administration, that will have a positive impact for those struggling in Florida and Puerto Rico,” said Jack Spencer, Vice President for Heritage’s Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity.

At the end of the Trump administrations one-week waiver Furth wrote again in The Daily Signal that Puerto Rico needs a much more extensive waiver to rebuild from Hurricane Maria’s direct hit.

“Given the scale of the damage to Puerto Rico and the multiyear rebuilding effort to come, Trump should issue a blanket waiver from the Jones Act for Puerto Rico for as long as the territory continues to use federal aid dollars in its rebuilding,” said Furth.

On September 28 the Department of Homeland Security issued another temporary waiver.

“This waiver will ensure that over the next ten days, all options are available to move and distribute goods to the people of Puerto Rico. It is intended to ensure we have enough fuel and commodities to support lifesaving efforts, respond to the storm, and restore critical services and critical infrastructure operations in the wake of these devastating storms,” said Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke.

Furth says this is great news but that Puerto Rico isn’t going to get back to normal in 10 days.

“President Trump should instruct the Department of Homeland Security to waive the Jones Act for as long as Puerto Rico is spending federal emergency funds. It does not make sense to give Puerto Rico aid money and then prevent them from effectively spending that money buying materials from mainland American businesses.”

Read more about why in natural disasters, the Jones Act is especially onerous and why Congress should grant a permanent exemption from the Jones Act for all fuel tankers.

This post originally appeared on www.heritage.org.

How should natural disaster relief be handled in the United States? 

Comments (9)

Katherine Hicks - September 29, 2017

During the Exxon spill in Alaska, The Jones Act made it hard to get boats to help. I do wonder what use The Jones Act is. However, I presume that President Trump will not help to eliminate it and he may be right. I am glad he issued the exemption for PR, but do agree that PR is a fiscal disaster and that is a big part of their problem. I hope we don’t pledge to completely rebuild the country. They must learn to handle their finances better.

BOBBY E. RICHARDSON - September 29, 2017

IT WOULD APPEAR THAT AFTER THESE DISASTERS IN 2017, THE PRESIDENT WOULD RECOMMEND A TEAM OF SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS INDIVIDUALS TO EVALUATE HOW WE HANDLE DISASTERS. HOWEVER, THIS GROUP IN CONGRESS MIGHT NOT ALLOW AN EVALUATION. THEY HAVE OPPOSED ALMOST EVERYTHING THIS PRESIDENT HAS WANTED TO DO. WHO KNOWS, IT WOULD BE WORTH A TRY.

G. ALLAN BARNES - September 29, 2017

It’s fascinating that EVERY time there’s a disaster in the country, 100’s of billions of dollars go to these areas. Consider the fact that the majority (83%) of Houston didn’t have flood insurance ! Not to worry though, the American taxpayer will foot the bill, as they always have, so they can have their beachfront property.
If you choose to live in an earthquake, flood, hurricane/tornado zone etc, go for it ! Just stop expecting others to pay for your lack of common sense to buy the appropriate insurance ! The Jim Croce line of . . . “You can’t rollerskate in a buffalo herd” is strangely appropriate here, but they can dupe others into paying for lack of planning/ preparedness.
All areas of the country should have warehouses of emergency “everything”, especially ones that get wiped out every year, at the states expense – NOT the US taxpayer.
I’ve grown weary of how many times La., for example, has been flooded. Maybe it’s time to put the whole state up on stilts or pontoons.
Gone are the days of self-reliance. Now, it’s “call somebody” to fix all of life’s big & little “oweys”.

Michael Badeau - September 29, 2017

With all the weather manipulation going on in all the larger countries I wonder how much of that influenced this many hurricanes at one time. It is pretty obvious to anyone that has been around for a while that this has been going on for decades.

If this continues to be the norm I can only imagine that natural (I say this
but mean unnatural disasters) disasters are going to escalate and places that are normally sensitive to these may need to be permanently abandoned. Sound harsh? Well financial and human loss are even harsher I believe.

I truly think that lifting the Jones Act for PR is fine as long as it is temporary and lends itself to making PR a safer place in the future. Sea wall, better structures or ? If this can’t be accomplished then look at other options please.

Beth Schlangen - September 30, 2017

I tend to agree with Michael. Looking at the devastation to the whole Island, is it worth rebuilding, should they be located to a safer place? I live in MN. When places are continually flooded, they don’t allow you to rebuild in vulnerable areas, and try to protect from future disasters and loss of life. If you build in a flood area, they get flood ins. We need to close the FRB, cancel national debt and use US Treasury. Have money available to help those in need, let non-profits help, let us choose who we support to lift govt burden.

Mrs. Phyllis Eix - September 30, 2017

All hands on deck should be the mantra. Not only Federal help, but State (Territory), and local leaders and residents need to give all the assistance they are capable of.

Henry Vance - September 30, 2017

I think that the states should set up plans for disasters in their states. They should direct the actions to relieve the situations in their states. They should tell the federal government what it needed and how to apply it to the states needs.

Pedro Villalba - October 1, 2017

Thank you for continuing to support the total elimination of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico.

patsy thomas - October 2, 2017

I can’t help but think of Holland and the little boy who put his finger in the dyke. Holland was smart enough to build a wall around the land which needed protection. Is there any application of a principle possible here? We could have another hurricane season next year like this one. Rebuild???
How many Puerto Ricoans can afford total insurance every year?

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