Senators Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) and Paul S. Sarbanes (D-MD were briefed by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) President Ken Hackett, who recently returned from tsunami-affected areas in South Asia. Mr. Hackett visited relief camps and destroyed villages in Sri Lanka, and spoke with survivors of the tsunami. He shared his experiences with the two Senators, who vowed to continue the fight for federal funding to aid in relief efforts.
The President will send a funding request for most of the $350 million pledged for tsunami relief, said Senator Mikulski. As a member of the Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee, which puts money in the federal checkbook for foreign aid, I will fight to make sure Congress moves quickly to pass this legislation and get the money in the hands of the relief organizations helping people who need it most.
I salute Catholic Relief Services for their work not only in Asia but also the 99 other countries where Catholic Relief works every day, added Senator Mikulski. They were one of the first groups to help victims by providing food and medicine, as well as hope for the future. Catholic Relief is needed now more than ever.
In a letter sent to President George W. Bush, Senator Mikulski joined several of her colleagues in urging the President to include in his supplemental funding request to Congress money for food aid programs to help the tsunami victims, as well as to address the food aid shortfall around the world (see letter attached). According to one estimate, customary food aid contributions by the United States and other donor countries were expected to fall $1.2 billion short of emergency needs worldwide as of December 9, 2004.
Earlier this month, Senators Mikulski and Sarbanes joined their colleagues in introducing and passing a Senate Resolution expressing sympathy and pledging support for the victims of the tsunami. Congress will consider emergency supplemental funding in the coming weeks to meet urgent humanitarian needs including food, shelter and medicine.
Congress also took action in January to allow taxpayers to deduct donations made for tsunami relief in January on their 2004 tax returns. This was the first piece of legislation taken up and passed in the new Congress (January 6). Senators Mikulski and Sarbanes were cosponsors of and strong advocates for this legislation.