Foreign Aid in Congress’ December Stimulus Package

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POTOMAC, Maryland — After months of tense negotiations, Congress has passed one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation in U.S. history on December 21, 2020—and it shows that foreign aid continues to endure as a key policy priority among U.S. lawmakers.

While the COVID-19 relief package passed by Congress encounters considerable controversy across a range of issues, the legislation makes no secret of its intention to put America at the head of more than just the global COVID-19 relief effort but an innumerable number of programs spearheading international aid and human rights.

The nearly 5600-page stimulus package, H.R. 133: Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, goes into detail about the new initiatives—domestic and foreign—that will be subject to federal funding. What follows is a list of almost all new initiatives that this bill will implement.

New Initiatives for International Development

  • $700 million for Sudanese economic development
  • $85.5 million to Cambodia to promote democracy, education and constitutionalism, as well as counter growing Chinese influence
  • Developmental assistance in India and Laos
  • $8 million to sustainable development and education in Tibet
  • $125 million to economic development in Egypt, with special emphasis on education (minimum of $40 million) and student scholarships (minimum of $15 million)
  • $33 million to pro-democracy programs in Venezuela
  • $50 million toward U.S. schools in the Middle East and Asia
  • $18.5 million for USAID and $30 million for the American Schools and Hospitals Abroad program
  • $100 million to the Prevention and Stabilization Fund (as authorized by the Global Fragility Act of 2019)
  • $1.65 billion for Jordan, about half of which can be spent indiscriminately.
  • $325 million for economic development in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with special emphasis on the eradication of Ebola

New Women’s Rights Program

  • Promotion of women’s rights and political involvement in Afghanistan [as a matter of national security]
  • $130 million exclusively for empowering women’s equality and equity abroad
  • An additional $15 million for preventing at-risk women and girls from succumbing to violent, extremist ideologies

Human Rights and Refugee Initiatives

  • $135 million in financial incentives to cease ethnic cleansing in Burma (Myanmar). These same funds would be available for humanitarian organizations in Thailand to support Burmese refugees.
  • Funding for the benefit of human rights in North Korea
  • $40 million to the “non-lethal stabilization” of Syria, with special emphasis on emergency medical/rescue responders and investigation into the use of chemical weapons
  • $25 million to the World Bank for the express purpose of assisting refugees and their host communities
  • $4 billion exclusively for the global distribution of the novel coronavirus vaccine(s)

Although the funding for these initiatives appears to be a large sum, the funding for international aid accounts for less than $8 billion of the $900 billion of federal funding set aside for this stimulus package, meaning foreign aid and development makes up less than 0.01% of U.S. federal funding. Moreover, this funding amounts to less than half of the funding necessary to fund Western relief programs across the globe fully.

Despite President Donald Trump originally vetoing the bill, he signed the bill on December 27, 2020, and it is now set to become public law.

Bardia Memar
Photo: Flickr

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