REASON FOR THIS ALERT: On February 14, President Bush announced an $81.9 billion supplemental spending request for fiscal year 2005. While most of that amount is for the Department of Defense, it also includes funding for international operations, tsunami relief, and other unexpected or emergency needs not covered by the existing FY2005 budget. The House of Representatives is expected to take up the Supplemental shortly while the Senate plans to consider it in mid-April.
There are fears that funding for several important initiatives will be cut during this process or that Congress will place any removed funding into the regular FY2006 budget, putting further stress on next year’s foreign assistance resources. Some Members have expressed a view that certain items in the request are not urgent. In light of this, now is the time to ask Congress to meet urgent peace-building and humanitarian needs worldwide.
USCCB/CRS POSITION: USCCB and CRS encourage Congress to consider the following urgent international relief and development needs as they consider the FY 2005 supplemental appropriations bill:
Palestine: The President requested $200 million to help the new Palestinian government make progress toward building a democratic state and improving security. This funding would support economic stability and infrastructure projects in the West Bank and Gaza, demonstrating a commitment to address the critical needs of the Palestinian people for economic progress and stability. However, some Members of Congress have expressed doubt about the need for this funding at this time. USCCB/CRS believe that an additional $200 million for Palestine must be appropriated now to take advantage of this crucial opportunity for peace in the Holy Land.
Tsunami Relief: The $950 million requested for tsunami relief, which includes the previously pledged $350 million, would provide immediate emergency humanitarian relief and fund some longer-term reconstruction programs that cannot wait for the next fiscal year’s budget nine months from now.
Food Aid: Although the Supplemental includes $150 million in food aid for Sudan, an additional $850 million is needed to address other global food aid needs. Even before the tsunami, severe food aid shortages forced CRS and other relief agencies to scale back and even cancel some development programs such as agriculture, health, and education. Emergencies such as the tsunami and the Darfur crisis have only exacerbated the need for more food aid. For example, the ongoing conflict in Darfur prevented farmers there from harvesting their crops last year. The region will need additional funding to offset another famine this year.
Peacekeeping: The President’s request for $780 million in U.S. contributions to international peacekeeping missions meets pressing needs in Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire, Haiti, Burundi, and Democratic Republic of Congo. In all five countries, foreign assistance will be crucial to establishing effective missions to alleviate conflict and instability that are claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.
Sudan: Conflict still rages in the western region of Darfur, while the north and south must implement their recently signed peace agreement ending a separate civil war. The President’s requests for $242 million for humanitarian aid in Darfur and $100 million for reconstruction and peacebuilding in Southern Sudan are vital for moving toward a just and lasting peace throughout the country.
Liberia: The President’s Supplemental request does not include any funding for Liberia as it emerges from conflict and needs funding for humanitarian relief and security support. Liberia also needs additional money for successful demobilization and reintegration programs for ex-combatants to ensure they do not revert to taking up arms. USCCB and CRS urge that $185 million for Liberia be added to the supplemental to respond to this emergency.
Refugees: The Supplemental does not include critically needed funding for refugee admissions. Although the President authorized the resettlement of up to 70,000 refugees in 2005, the current budget does not contain sufficient funds to support the resettlement of this number of refugees.
TAKE ACTION NOW: Please contact your members in the House of Representatives and urge them to support the following as part of the FY 2005 supplemental appropriations bill:
Support the President’s request for:
- $200 million for Palestine
- $950 million for tsunami relief
- $342 million for Sudan
- $780 million for U.S. contributions to international peacekeeping operations
- An additional $850 million for the Title II food aid program. While the Supplemental includes $150 million in food aid for Sudan, more funding is needed for other food aid crises worldwide.
- $185 million for urgent needs in Liberia.
- $50 million for refugee admissions.
For more information, contact:
Fr. Andrew Small, OMI, Policy Advisor, USCCB, 202-541-3153, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gerry Flood, Policy Advisor, USCCB, 202-541-3167, email@example.com
Tina Rodousakis, Legislative Network Specialist, 1-800-235-2772 x 7462, Trodousa@catholicrelief.org.