Donald Trump has temporarily waived the Jones Act, a century-old shipping law, a move which will finally allow supplies to reach Puerto Rico.
The news came in a tweet from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who noted that this generous act of kindness was done on the request of Ricardo A. Rosselló, the governor of Puerto Rico.
Several members of Congress had been asking for the act to be waived since Monday, the New York Times reports. With the waiver temporarily in place, ships filled with supplies of food, medicine, clothing and water will be able to make it to Puerto Rico, which has been devestated by Hurricane Maria.
The Jones Act is technically called the Merchant Marine Act, and was put into place in 1920. It states that anything shipped between points in the United States must be on boats that are American-made, owned and operated. The act was put into place in part so that the national maritime industry could be ready to mobilize for war at any moment and also as a means of exerting control over American waterways. The act protects the continental United States’s interest, but doesn’t really do much for those in say, Hawaii or Alaska, who say that the increase in cost for shipping things from the mainland makes prices higher for consumers. Or people in say, Puerto Rico, who are in desperate need of supplies.
According to CNN, the Jones Act is lifted all the time in times of national crisis—immediately following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the act was waived at the request of the Department of Defense, so that supplies could come from places other than the United States to help the devastated areas.
The Jones Act protects the interests of the domestic shipping industry and it’s for this reason that Trump has been dragging his feet on lifting it for Puerto Rico. On Wednesday he told reporters that he was “thinking” about lifting the act, but was worried about the “shippers.” As most Americans know, including, I hope, Donald Trump, Puerto Rico is part of America.
If you’re looking for a way to help, this list should get you started.