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Why the Cost of Puerto Rico Relief Efforts Could Suddenly Rise

October 10, 2017, 9:26 PM UTC

Republican Sen. John McCain is ramping up efforts to pass a bill that would permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act, a federal law that prohibits foreign-flagged ships from shuttling goods between U.S. ports.

The 10-day Jones Act waiver that Trump put in place to help the hurricane-devastated area expired on Sunday night. It has not been renewed.

McCain introduced a bill Sept. 28 with fellow Republican Mike Lee of Utah that would give Puerto Rico a permanent exemption from act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920.

“It is more important than ever for Congress to pass my bill to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from this archaic and burdensome law,” McCain said in a statement. “Until we provide Puerto Rico with long-term relief, the Jones Act will continue to hinder much-needed efforts to help the people of Puerto Rico recover and rebuild from Hurricane Maria.”

More: How to Help Puerto Rico After Hurricane Maria

Trump issued a temporary exemption following criticism that the trade law hampered relief efforts in Puerto Rico. The Jones Act, which requires all goods shipped between U.S. seaports be carried by ships built, owned, and operated by Americans, has doubled shipping costs between the mainland and Puerto Rico, according to McCain’s office.

Puerto Rico was hit last month by Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that caused widespread damage and knocked electrical power out on the entire island.