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Three Things Congress Can Do Right Away to Help Haiti

January 15, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate and House will both be in session next week — here are three things they could do easily and quickly to help the situation in Haiti.

1) Give Haitian Immigrants Temporary Protected Status

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a special immigration status that the government sometimes gives to refugees of countries that it determines are in emergency situations. It’s used in cases where it would be unsafe for refugees to return to the country due to armed conflict, environmental disaster or other extraordinary circumstances. TPS allows nationals of to work safely in the U.S. and to travel between the U.S. and their home country. Congress can easily grant TPS to Haitian refugees. There is already a bill with 49 co-sponsors in the House to do it. View it here:

H.R. 144 – Hatian Protection Act of 2009 >>

2) Cancel Haiti’s Debt

Haiti is already the least developed country in the Hemisphere. Before the earthquake, Haitians were already suffering from massive poverty, food-insecurity and political instability. Yet they owe $1.8 billion or so to lenders including the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and US government. As Avelino wrote earlier this week, Congress can take action now to cancel Haiti’s debt and help them rebuild. There is a bill before Congress right now that would cancel Haiti’s debate and that of other poor countries. View it here:

H.R. 4405 – Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation of 2009 >>

3) Provide Tax Incentives for Donors

There are two things Congress can do to make it more appealing for individuals to donate to Haiti relief efforts. First, as a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House are advocating, they can allow donations to be written off on 2009 taxes instead of making donors wait a full year to get the benefits. Second, as a bipartisan group of senators is proposing, they could lift the current limit on tax write-offs for donations that are larger than 50 percent of an individual’s annual income. Bills to do both are expected to be introduced early next week.

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