The Trump White House has let its 10-day waiver of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico expire on Sunday and will not renew it, meaning foreign ships can no longer help deliver aid to the hurricane-ravaged US territory.
A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) confirmed on Monday that the Jones Act waiver will not be extended.
DHS issued the waiver of the Jones Act on Sept. 28, after a request by Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello and pressure from lawmakers, including Senator John McCain and U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez. They argued that the waiver would help deliver gasoline and other critical supplies more quickly and cheaply to the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
The Trump administration issued a weeklong waiver for Texas and Florida after hurricanes Harvey and Irma, extending it for an additional week in September to help bolster relief efforts, reports The Hill.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosello issued an urgent letter to congressional leaders on Saturday, warning that the island is on the verge of simultaneous humanitarian and fiscal disasters in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
JUST IN: Puerto Rico governor sends letter to Congress asking for additional financial assistance following "unprecedented catastrophe" pic.twitter.com/KcFavTrHTt
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 9, 2017
Gov. Rossello told Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a letter that most businesses have been unable to reopen in the wake of the storm, putting the already fiscally shaky island under even more pressure.
“In addition to the physical destruction, Puerto Rico’s economy has ground to a near standstill,” Rossello wrote, adding that “very few businesses” are operating.
“Financial damages of this magnitude will subject Puerto Rico’s central government, its instrumentalities, and municipal governments to unsustainable cash shortfalls,” he said. “As a result, in addition to the immediate humanitarian crisis, Puerto Rico is on the brink of a massive liquidity crisis that will intensify in the immediate future.”
“We are grateful for the federal emergency assistance that has been provided so far,” Rosello wrote. “However, absent extraordinary measures to address the halt in economic activity in Puerto Rico, the humanitarian crisis will deepen, and the unmet basic needs of the American citizens of Puerto Rico will become even greater.”
“The unprecedented island-wide devastation in Puerto Rico has led to independent damage assessments in the range of $95 billion — approximately 150 percent of Puerto Rico’s GNP,” he wrote.
Rossello asked Ryan, R-Wis., and McConnell, R-Ky., for an additional $4.6 billion to help the island.
The Trump administration has been widely criticized for a slow and then inadequate response since the U.S. territory was devastated on Sept. 20 by a Category 4 storm that left 95% of the island’s residents without electricity and nearly half without running water.
As of Monday morning, just 15 percent of Puerto Ricans had their electricity restored. Forty-one percent of the U.S. territory lacked access to drinking water.
On Monday, CBS reporter David Begnaud shared photos of desperate island residents resorting to collecting water from a mountain stream.
This was yesterday in Manatí, Puerto Rico – long lines as people fetched water from a pvc pipe that was tapped into a mountain stream pic.twitter.com/wzFqSIZskh
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) October 9, 2017