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White House seeks $2.8 billion from Congress for aid package to Haiti

By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 24, 2010; 9:46 PM

The White House asked Congress on Wednesday for a $2.8 billion emergency aid package to assist Haiti in the wake of the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people.

The request appeared to be on the high end of what lawmakers were expecting. But at least $1 billion of the amount was to reimburse the Defense Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development for money they had already spent in the relief operation. Some of the money would also go toward paying back Florida and other states for providing health care to Haitian victims.

The request includes at least $1 billion in new money for relief and reconstruction, according to details that the White House gave Congress.

More than $4oo million would go toward rebuilding homes, the electrical system and agricultural and industrial facilities in Haiti. Another $51 million would be aimed at fostering rural economic growth and development, a priority of Haiti's government, which wants to reduce the previous overcrowding in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

At least $230 million would be for programs to improve governance, the justice system and security.

In addition to providing money for reconstruction, the proposal would set aside $212 million for a multi-donor plan to reduce Haiti's foreign debt.

"This emergency funding for Haiti is a must," Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement. "It's a nonnegotiable measurement of how the United States responds to a humanitarian emergency."

The aid package did not, however, appear to contain money for education, which was described as a "priority" by Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.

Lawmakers say the proposed aid would probably be spent over a period of two or three years. Congress will probably not vote on the supplemental budget request for a few weeks.

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