TRENTON – New Jersey State Senators Nellie Pou, Nilsa Cruz-Perez, and M. Teresa Ruiz announced today that they will introduce a resolution urging Congress and the Trump Administration to suspend the Jones Act for Puerto Rico to aid recovery efforts and provide much–needed help to American citizens living on the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
“Puerto Rico needs help. The entire island is without power and food, drinking water and fuel are scarce. Congress must act in order to reduce the suffering that our fellow citizens are living with in the wake of Hurricane Maria by suspending the Jones Act,” said Senator Pou (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This act has long contributed to the high cost of living on the island, and will be a great obstacle for the delivery of supplies for disaster relief and reconstruction efforts.”
“We need to cut the bureaucracy in Washington and work together to bring relief to the island and thus reduce the suffering of our fellow citizens in the aftermath of Maria,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (D-Camden). “This resolution will allow us to speak in one voice urging Congress to act on the suspension of the Jones Act to help Puerto Rico rebuild its infrastructure and economy to bring a sense of normalcy to the lives of the millions of Americans who call the island home. Puerto Rico desperately needs all of the help it can get and our focus, as a nation, should be on addressing the critical need that exists.”
“The Jones Act should never have existed. Requiring Puerto Rico to pay exorbitant costs for commodities has long been detrimental to the island, but it is especially burdensome now as the relief effort is underway,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Now, more than ever, it is time for the federal government to address the devastating effect of this policy. The people of Puerto Rico desperately need food, clean drinking water, supplies, and infrastructure. Suspending the Jones Act as they work to recover from this disaster is imperative.”
The Jones Act requires that all goods shipped between waterborne ports of the United States be carried by vessels built in the United States and owned and operated by Americans. Shipping costs from the United States mainland to Puerto Rico have been estimated to be twice as much for imports than neighboring US Virgin Islands, which is exempted from the Jones Act.
Puerto Rico is a crucial territory for shipping companies because it houses 3.5 million residents who import 85 percent of their food, according to the Department of Agriculture, and eventually pay the cost of transportation. In contrast, the territories of Guam, US Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa are totally or partially exempt from the restrictions of cabotage laws.
The Senators will introduce the measure on Thursday, October 5, 2017.