Legislation seeks financial aid for maritime in national emergencies

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Image (C) Architect of the Capitol

The Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), and the Chair of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) yesterday introduced The Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act (MTSERA). The legislation is designed to provide relief to those in the maritime industry during a national emergency such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic or natural disasters.

The legislation comes on the heels of a Subcommittee hearing May 29 at which maritime community members testified on the unprecedented challenges the industry is facing in the global pandemic.

The MTSERA would establish a comprehensive maritime emergency relief authority to enable the Maritime Administration (MARAD) to provide financial assistance to stabilize and ensure the reliable functioning of the U.S. Maritime Transportation System (MTS) in the event of a national emergency or disaster, including, the current COVID-19 public health emergency.

This new emergency relief authority is designed to help eligible state entities and other eligible maritime supply chain entities engaged in vessel construction, transportation by water, or other maritime support activities (e.g., harbor pilots, assist tugs, stevedores, etc.).

MARAD would be authorized to provide grant assistance to pay for repairing and/or replacing equipment, facilities, and shore infrastructure that have suffered serious damage during a major natural disaster such as floods, hurricanes, or tsunamis. MARAD also is authorized to reimburse or provide assistance to cover the operating and overhead costs involved with emergency response operations, cleaning, sanitization, janitorial services, staffing, workforce retention, paid leave, procurement of protective health equipment and training for employees and contractors, debt service payments, infrastructure repair projects, and other MTS operations before, during or after an emergency necessary to keep the MTS operating reliably and efficiently.

“The men and women who work within the Maritime Transportation System are part of our nation’s essential workforce that has been key to keeping critical goods moving during the global pandemic, and for that, we owe them a debt of gratitude,” Chair DeFazio said. “But our thanks are not enough. We must also ensure that stakeholders across our maritime industry have the resources and equipment they need to keep the global supply chain moving and stay safe while doing so. The legislation we are introducing today will give the maritime sector the same protections and relief given to other industries during COVID-19, and will close a huge gap in current federal emergency assistance that has left links in the maritime supply chain isolated and unable to access other assistance programs available to other industries.”

“Ensuring the maritime industry has the resources it needs during an emergency or natural disaster is an important step in protecting the workers, national security assets, and goods that pass through our ports every day. The coronavirus pandemic made it clear that we need more support and systems in place to stabilize the industry in the event of a catastrophe. The Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act will help better support this vital industry in a comprehensive way, and get the United States Maritime Transportation System the reliable support it needs for the future,” said Chair Maloney.

Bill text can be found HERE.

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