More than a week after Hurricane Maria devastated the United States commonwealth of Puerto Rico, President Donald Trump has lifted a rule that was slowing aid to the island.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted this morning (September 28) that Trump waived the Jones Act this morning, effective immediately:
At @ricardorossello request, @POTUS has authorized the Jones Act be waived for Puerto Rico. It will go into effect immediately.
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) September 28, 2017
Until now, Puerto Rico was bound by the Jones Act, which says that the island can only receive items from mainland America that is shipped via vessels built, owned and manned by Americans. That rule was preventing foreign ships carrying aid and fuel from docking in Puerto Rico.
The rule was lifted immediately following Hurricane Harvey and Irma to help speed aid to Texas and Florida. But President Donald Trump told reporters yesterday (September 27) that he was only “thinking about” lifting it in PR, saying that shippers don’t want it lifted:
President Trump says he is thinking about lifting the Jones Act to help Puerto Rico https://t.co/FEMwfaBDmp
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 27, 2017
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz told CNN that the move is “an act of justice” and gives context surrounding how the suspension will positively impact the local economy and recovery efforts:
The mayor of San Juan calls the suspension of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico "an act of justice" https://t.co/YAmAjBOd2f
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 28, 2017
Meanwhile, The Hill reports that people who the U.S. government evacuates from Puerto Rico, Dominica and other countries in the region must sign promissory notes saying that they will repay the cost of their transportation.
The Department of State’s website says that in addition to the note, which must be signed before departing the ravished islands, evacuees much surrender their passports. “In order to obtain a new passport, an evacuee must arrange payment as agreed upon via the promissory note.”
Per the Department of State, “The cost of the loan is based on the price of the last commercial one-way, full-fare (not discounted) economy ticket prior to the crisis.” But the agency says it cannot currently accept repayments, so those who need to complete urgent travel before repaying the loan have to contact the government to petition for a replacement passport.