Nearly nine months after the earthquake, more than a million Haitians still live on the streets between piles of rubble. One reason: Not a cent of the $1.15 billion the US pledged in March for rebuilding has arrived. The US has already spent more than $1.1 billion on post-quake relief, but without long-term funds, the reconstruction of the wrecked capital cannot begin. And with just a week to go before fiscal 2010 ends, the money is still tied up in Washington, thanks to one man: Sen. Tom Coburn.
In interviews with various officials, the AP learned that Coburn has held up a key authorization bill that would direct how the aid is delivered because of a $5 million provision he says will be wasteful. The bill proposes a new coordinator in Washington who would not oversee US aid but would work with the USAID administrator in Washington to develop a rebuilding strategy, at a cost of $1 million a year for five years, including salaries and expenses for a staff of up to seven people. "He is holding the bill because it includes an unnecessary senior Haiti coordinator when we already have one" in US Ambassador Kenneth Merten, said a Coburn rep.