House leaders Thursday introduced legislation that would provide relief to the maritime industry during national emergencies like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other natural disasters.
Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Chair of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, introduced the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act in response to a hearing on May 29 where maritime community members testified to the unprecedented challenges the industry is facing in light of the pandemic.
“The men and women who work within the Maritime Transportation System are part of our Nation’s essential workforce that has been key to keeping critical goods moving during the global pandemic, and for that, we owe them a debt of gratitude,” DeFazio said. “But our thanks are not enough. We must also ensure that stakeholders across our maritime industry have the resources and equipment they need to keep the global supply chain moving and stay safe while doing so. The legislation we are introducing today will give the maritime sector the same protections and relief given to other industries during COVID-19, and will close a huge gap in current federal emergency assistance that has left links in the maritime supply chain isolated and unable to access other assistance programs available to other industries.”
The bill is designed to establish a maritime emergency relief authority that would enable Maritime Administration to give financial assistance to stabilize the U.S. Maritime Transportation System and ensure the reliability of its functioning in the event of a national emergency or disaster.
The Maritime Administration would be authorized to provide grant assistance to pay for repairing or replacing equipment, facilities, and short infrastructure that suffers serious damage during major natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis. The administration would also be authorized to provide assistance to maritime industry entities in covering operating and overhead costs involved with any emergency response operation – including cleaning, sanitizing, staffing, paying for paid leave, or procuring personal protective equipment – needed to keep the MTS operating.
“Ensuring the maritime industry has the resources it needs during an emergency or natural disaster is an important step in protecting the workers, national security assets, and goods that pass through our ports every day. The coronavirus pandemic made it clear that we need more support and systems in place to stabilize the industry in the event of a catastrophe. The Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act will help better support this vital industry in a comprehensive way, and get the United States Maritime Transportation System the reliable support it needs for the future,” Maloney said.