House bill seeks five-year Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico

OCTOBER 10, 2017 — Congressman Gary Palmer (R-AL) and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) have introduced H.R. 3966, the Puerto Rico Humanitarian Relief Act.

According to a press release issued by Congressman Palmer, the measure provides a five 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. The press release cites a 2010 study at the University of Puerto Rico that said that Puerto Rico loses $537 million every year due to the Jones Act.

"The Congress has the responsibility to act when enacted laws prove to be burdensome," said Congressman Palmer. "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."

"Puerto Rico has a long, difficult road ahead of it and the Jones Act will serve only to impede its physical and economic recovery," said Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez. "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."

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