U.S. Rep. Darren Soto has signed on to a letter urging the federal government to suspend the 1920 Jones Act governing shipping and ease FEMA cost-sharing rules during Puerto Rico’s recovery process from Hurricane Maria.

The Jones Act requires all ships moving supplies to Puerto Rico from American ports be American and American-crewed.

The letter initiated by U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez, a Democrat from New York, asks Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke, asks that the federal government suspend, for one year, the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, for shipping into Puerto Rico so that the island can more easily receive oil, power grid equipment and other critical supplies.

Soto, an Orlando Democrat, was one of seven cosigners.

“The island is now facing an unprecedented uphill battle to rebuild its homes, businesses and communities. Temporarily loosening these requirements – for the express purpose of disaster recovery – will allow Puerto Rico to have more access to the oil needed for its power plants, food, medicines, clothing, and building supplies,” the letter argues.

The letter also requests that a FEMA requirement for local cost-sharing on relief efforts be waived for Puerto Rico because the island and its government already were in deep economic trouble before Maria hit.

“Puerto Rico’s current economic conditions have already pushed the local government’s financial resources to the breaking point. Requiring cost-sharing during this critical time could take local resources away from providing the essential services many citizens need,” the letter states.

“Hurricane Maria has taken a significant toll on the Island, its infrastructure and its residents. The Federal Government has the duty to ensure these American citizens are provided the relief they need. By granting these temporary waivers, DHS can ensure we are doing everything we can to help American families in need,” the letter concludes.


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