New Congressional Condition Further Stalls Haiti Reconstruction Aid

The U.S. Congress has put up another condition for approving the USD1.15 billion in post-quake reconstruction money promised to Haiti in March: The State Department must prove that the funding will not be misued.

An Associated Press investigation in September notes that not a penny of the pledged funding has reached Haiti due to a combination of “bureaucracy, disorganization and a lack of urgency.” As reported by Devex, the authorization bill that stipulates how aid for Haiti will be delivered was pulled by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

>> What’s the Truth About Delay of US Aid to Haiti?

In an Oct. 8 letter addressed to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Coburn explained why he opposes a quick approval of the Haiti aid bill by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).  

“I do not object to fulfilling our pledge to assist Haiti recover,” Coburn said. “However, I believe our charity today should not come at the expense of the next generation. Therefore, any additional aid we provide must be paid for with cuts to lower priority programs elsewhere within the federal government’s bloated $3.7 trillion annual budget.”

The approval, AP says, of the funding depends on the completion of the so-called Section 1007 proceeding, which, in this case, involves the State Department. P.J. Crowley, the department’s spokesman, could not provide an estimate as to when the step will be completed, but he expects it to be “very soon.”

“Given the weak governmental institutions that existed in Haiti even before the earthquake, Congress wants to be sure we have that accountability in place before these funds are obligated,” Crowley said to AP.

Without the funding, some contractors have given up their planned rebuilding projects.

Jeff Cazeau, a Haitian-American procurement attorney in Miami, said he attended several sessions in Port-au-Prince, Washington and Miami that were organized by U.S. officials to discuss how to secure aid money for reconstruction projects. He represented clients that eye building houses, installing solar-powered cell phone towers and constructing roads in Haiti.

“But then absolutely nothing happened. Absolutely nothing. The frustration level just got higher and higher and higher,” he said, as quoted by AP. “At some point it became pretty evident that nothing was going to happen and I had to get back to my regular law practice.”

The delay’s negative impact now shows, Cazeau observed.

He said: “Now you’ve got a cholera epidemic, a hurricane bearing down on the place, people are living in the roadway medians, in city parks. It’s just misery after misery after misery and none of this should have come as a surprise. Everyone was saying back in January that we need to get on this.”

About the author

  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.