Columbia, SC (WLTX) - As organizations attempt to send aid to Puerto Rico a federal law may be preventing donations from getting in the hands of the people who need it most.
The Jones Act also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 requires that goods shipped between U.S. ports be carried by ships built and operated by Americans. Ships that enter Puerto Rico from other countries are subject to taxes and fees. Senior Department of Homeland Security officials are feeling pressure to suspend the act, but say that a waiver isn't needed because it is not interfering with FEMA's relief efforts. President Trump said that he is considering lifting the restrictions.
Trump said, "Well, we're thinking about that...We have a lot of shippers and a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don't want the Jones Act lifted. We have a lot of ships out there right now."
News 19 reached out to Senators Scott and Graham as well as Representatives Wilson, Norman and Clyburn.
Representative Clyburn's office said he would support a waiver.
Representatives from Senator Scott's office sent us this statement.
“Sen. Scott believes that it is imperative we work to provide immediate relief to Puerto Rico and other areas impacted by Hurricane Maria. Our government agencies at all levels must continue to work together to determine the best path forward. DHS has indicated it is still working to assess the ports’ operational status. Once a final decision is made, we will explore all options to get them what they need as soon as possible.”
We are waiting responses from the other members of Congress.
People throughout the Midlands are wanting to do their part to help. On Saturday the South Carolina Hispanic Leadership Council will be collecting donations at La Isla Bonita on Percival Road. They're working with The Puerto Rican Cultural Society of Charlotte to send the supplies. The group recently used a private plane to transport the supplies with the help of Samaritan's Purse and Desgens Closet, but as Tanya Rodriquez Hodges of the Latino Communications Community Development Corporation explains, getting the goods from the plane to the people may be difficult.
"We can collect here stateside and we can have a great mission to get the items there for the need that is obvious and overwhelming, but if we're being stopped by the Department of Defense once you get there then the supplies are just being held offsite somewhere else until they're able to get on the island," she said.