Government red tape is slowing Puerto Rico relief efforts, says donation drive organizers

President Trump granted a 10-day waiver on rules
Posted at 6:17 PM, Sep 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-28 18:17:50-04

Logistics, and government regulation, has slowed relief efforts from the Tampa Bay Area to people in Puerto Rico.

“People have been so generous,” says Tampa attorney Edgar Guzman to ABC Action News, about the donation drive he organized in his company’s event space on N Himes Avenue. 

“The next thing was determining how we’re going to get this into the hands of the people in Puerto Rico. So that’s when we first came into contact with the red tape going on with the Jones Act, and all the political stuff going on there,” says Guzman.

The 100-year-old rule strictly regulates boats with foreign flags from moving goods between U.S. territories; it had boat captains sitting on the sideline during the relief effort, until, after begging from people in Puerto Rico, President Trump waived the rule.

“The Jones Act was waived this morning and all the donations are on their way right now today,” said Guzman, after his team spoke with people helping make the transit this morning.

Even people who planned to use an airplane to move goods are running into trouble.

“We had a plane that was chartered that was supposed to be here two days ago and the charter had trouble with some international regulations,” explains Yvette Cowdrey, who is organizing a large-scale donation drive. “It has not been able to get here,” she adds.

Cowdrey enlisted the help of the airplane maintenance company Pemco in Tampa, which has kindly granted her a lot of space in their Tampa hangar to store the donated supplies.

She is thinking of her family in Puerto Rico as she looks for another cargo plane to help.

“All my family is in Puerto Rico. Parents, cousins. We know they’re running low on supplies. And they have no way to get supplies because they’re running out of fuel. And they don’t have any way to get fuel,” says Cowdrey, who calls the situation increasingly desperate. 

She says ready-to-eat meals, and water, are their biggest requests from her family at the moment.