After a significant delay and mounting criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike, Donald Trump has waived the Jones Act so that aide can flow freely into Puerto Rico. Otherwise known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the nearly 100-year law protects U.S. maritime commerce by ensuring that only American-made boats owned and operated mostly by citizens or permanent residents can do business between local ports. Yet the law often proves hurtful during disaster recovery, so it was quickly waived following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma along the Gulf Coast.
On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced the president’s decision on Twitter. “At @ricardorossello request, @POTUS has authorized the Jones Act be waived for Puerto Rico,” she wrote. “It will go into effect immediately.”
Earlier that morning, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello tweeted he had “petitioned the @WhiteHouse for a temporary waver of the Jones Act” on Wednesday evening. When Sanders’ tweet and CNN’s story made the Jones Act waiver official, he followed up his preview tweet with a short message of thanks to President Trump.
Though Irma didn’t quite make landfall in early September, it caused enough flooding and damage in Puerto Rico to render at least a million people without power. Two weeks later, however, Maria practically bifurcated the island with a direct hit. Earlier this week, Rossello publicly pleaded with U.S. officials to send additional aid, noting that the territory’s residents were U.S. citizens too. News of a significantly delayed congressional relief package and FEMA issues didn’t help matters either.