Stepping Up for Haiti

March 26, 2010 By Jordan Smith

President Obama requested $2.8 billion in a FY 2010 supplemental aid package for Haiti on March 24, a week before international donors meet at the United Nations to decide on the financing of a reconstruction effort estimated to be $11.5 billion. The package includes money to reimburse U.S. agencies for some of the funds that already have been spent for relief efforts, as well as money to help Haiti rebuild its crippled government infrastructure.  $1.9 billion is requested for the International Affairs Budget, of which $1.5 billion is for the State Department and USAID to mostly focus on reconstruction activities.

Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is getting ready to introduce legislation that would set the legal framework for aid to Haiti over the next several years to help it rebuild its economy. “It lays out a policy framework and delineates key strategic objectives that would guide, in partnership with the Haitian government, how resources will be spent,” said a committee spokesperson. That bill will pave the way for aid related to governance, security, urban development, agricultural development, environmental sustainability, health systems, education, and disability assistance, he said.

Congressional action on the supplemental funding package is likely to get underway next month, when Members return from a two-week recess.  Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Thursday that “this emergency funding for Haiti is a must.”

The situation in Haiti continues to be dire. If donor fatigue sets in, the country could be headed for long-term disaster. As the New York Times put it, “The emergency in Haiti isn’t over. It’s getting worse, as the outside world’s attention fades away.”