Next Steps for Haiti Act of 2009

Bill Number: 
H.R. 417
Bill Location: 
Date of Last Action: 
Friday, January 9, 2009
Relevant Text: 

Next Steps for Haiti Act of 2009 (Introduced in House)

HR 417 IH

111th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 417

To provide for professional exchanges with Haiti, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

January 9, 2009

Ms. LEE of California (for herself, Mr. TOWNS, Mr. ENGEL, Mr. CONYERS, Mr. CROWLEY, Ms. CORRINE BROWN of Florida, Mr. MEEK of Florida, Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia, Mrs. CHRISTENSEN, Mr. LEWIS of Georgia, Ms. EDWARDS of Maryland, Mr. HASTINGS of Florida, Mr. RANGEL, and Mr. RUSH) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs

A BILL

To provide for professional exchanges with Haiti, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Next Steps for Haiti Act of 2009'.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

Congress finds the following:

(1) Haiti is the world's first black-led republic and the first Caribbean country to achieve independence.

(2) Since its independence on January 1, 1804, the Government of Haiti has struggled to meet the promise of freedom and democracy expressed in the Preliminary Declaration of its 1805 Constitution.

(3) Many government changes in the last three decades, accompanied with ongoing violence, have contributed to the government's inability to provide security for its citizens and provide an environment conducive for the development of infrastructure.

(4) Since the return of Haiti's democracy, the country has taken steps to achieve a relative measure of stability. However, the 40 percent rise in global food prices and subsequent 50 percent rise in the cost of Haiti's staple foods since mid-2007 has threatened Haiti's security and the capacity of Haiti's economy to prosper.

(5) Haiti today stands as the Western Hemisphere's poorest country, and would benefit greatly from technical assistance in the fields of health care, sanitation, capacity building, and the environment.

(6) United States Caribbean nationals have traditionally contributed to the economic and social development of their home countries through remittances. Diasporas serve as lobbies in their host countries and as transnational networks and actors in their respective societies. Partnering with the resources of a diaspora can lead to staffing and training of public administration, business development, job creation, and migration management.

(7) At least 3 million Haitians live abroad, mostly in the United States and Canada. Members of the Haitian diaspora are Haiti's first customers and investors in tourism, small business, and mining. Return trips by Haitians living abroad provide significant capital for local economies and tourism.

(8) According to the Inter-American Development Bank, remittances to families in Haiti reached an estimated 1.83 billion in 2007. These remittances account for 35 percent of Haiti's gross domestic product.

(9) The diaspora support is received from hometown associations of professionals focusing on specific fields. These help create small- and medium-sized businesses in Haiti, through micro-volunteer projects and the channeling of funds through local, departmental, and national initiatives.

(10) Mobilizing Haitians abroad is one means to advance state and economic reconstruction as well as reversing the brain drain and bring skilled and professional expatriates back to Haiti to greatly expand the nation's management capacity and workforce.

SEC. 3. THE NEXT STEPS FOR HAITI ACT OF 2009.

(a) Program Authorized- The Director of Foreign Assistance, in consultation with the democratically elected Government of Haiti and Haitian civil society organizations, is authorized to establish a professional exchange program in Haiti, to be known as the `Haiti Professional Exchange Program' (in this Act referred to as the `Exchange Program'). At all major phases of the Exchange Program, including establishing the Exchange Program's priorities, identifying the most appropriate skills for Exchange Program participants, and selecting and supervising Exchange Program participants, the democratically elected Government of Haiti and Haitian civil society organizations shall be consulted.

(b) Purpose- The purpose of the Exchange Program is to assign qualified Haitian Americans and others to provide technical assistance to help Haiti improve in areas vital to its growth and development, which may include education, energy, environment, healthcare, infrastructure, security, transportation, and disaster preparedness.

(c) Coordination- In carrying out the Exchange Program, the Director of Foreign Assistance shall negotiate an agreement with the democratically elected Government of Haiti to--

(1) provide technical assistance in areas vital to Haiti's growth and development as provided under subsection (b); and

(2) identify, in accordance with Haitian needs and priorities, the sectors or professional fields to which Exchange Program participants may provide technical assistance and the objectives to be achieved, including specific projects or programs.

(d) Consultation With Haitian Civil Society Organizations- The democratically elected Government of Haiti should consult with Haitian civil society organizations to identify the needs and priorities of Haiti to outline the sectors or professional fields to which Exchange Program participants may provide technical assistance and the objectives to be achieved, including specific projects or programs.

(e) Selection of Individuals for Participation in the Exchange Program- The Director of Foreign Assistance shall establish a selections committee, consisting of representatives of the democratically elected Government of Haiti and Haitian civil society organizations, to identify criteria that should be met by individuals who wish to participate in the Exchange Program. In addition, the selections committee shall review potential eligible applicants who wish to participate in the Exchange Program to ensure that they can act as experts.

(f) Outreach Program To Encourage Participation in the Exchange Program- The Director of Foreign Assistance shall establish an outreach program to encourage participation in the Exchange Program, by individuals who shall meet the following requirements:

(1) Are citizens of the United States or lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States.

(2) Are--

(A) fluent in Kreyol or are working towards a proficiency in Kreyol, or willing to undertake intensive Kreyol training; or

(B) fluent in French or are working towards a proficiency in French, or willing to undertake intensive French training.

(3) Possess skills or expertise to further the purposes of this Act.

(g) Terms of Participation for Individuals in the Exchange Program-

(1) ORIENTATION REQUIRED FOR INDIVIDUALS IN THE EXCHANGE PROGRAM- Participants shall attend an orientation outlined by the Director of Foreign Assistance, in consultation with the selection committee. The orientation shall consist of workshops and seminars designed to prepare participants for their stay in Haiti. Topics addressed shall include the following:

(A) A review of the Exchange Program's goals and intentions.

(B) A review of Haiti's different approaches to the country's development needs.

(C) A review of the potential cultural and behavioral barriers individuals may face while participating in the Exchange Program.

(2) LENGTH OF SERVICE IN EXCHANGE PROGRAM-

(A) 27 MONTHS- Individuals may participate in the Exchange Program for not longer than 27 months.

(B) EXCEPTION- If a participant would like to extend the duration of time of participation in the program, an application for such an extension shall be subject to approval of the Director of Foreign Assistance, in consultation with the democratically elected Government of Haiti. Upon approval, individuals may participate in the Exchange Program for one additional year.

(C) COMPENSATION AND READJUSTMENT ALLOWANCE-

(i) COMPENSATION- An individual who participates in the Exchange Program shall receive monthly compensation equal to the average monthly salary of such individual's professional Haitian counterpart.

(ii) READJUSTMENT ALLOWANCE- At the end of an individual's participation in the Exchange Program, the Director of Foreign Assistance shall provide to such individual a readjustment allowance in an amount equal to the number of months such individual participated in the Exchange Program multiplied by $250.

(3) ENACTMENT, NOTICE-

(A) ESTABLISHMENT- The Exchange Program shall be established not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.

(B) NOTICE- Not later than 30 days after the date on which the Director of Foreign Assistance establishes the Exchange Program under subsection (a), the Director shall--

(i) provide notice thereof to Congress; and

(ii) submit to Congress information on the Exchange Program that contains the agreement governing the scope of work negotiated with the democratically elected Government of Haiti, a recruitment plan for participants, and a description of the qualifications and other appropriate information relating to individuals who are to be recruited to participate in the Exchange Program, including the needs that the individuals are expected to fill under the Exchange Program.

(4) DEFINITIONS- In this section:

(A) CIVIL SOCIETY- The term `civil society' means voluntary civic and social organizations and may include registered charities, grassroots organizations, coalitions and advocacy groups, and professional associations.

(B) EXPERT ADVISORS- The term `expert advisors' means individuals who possess extensive experience in fields which will benefit Haiti that may include education, energy, environment, health care, infrastructure, security, transportation, and disaster preparedness.

(5) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS-

(A) IN GENERAL- There are authorized to be appropriated for each of fiscal years 2009 through 2014 such sums as may be necessary to carry out this section.

(B) SENSE OF CONGRESS- It is the sense of Congress that at least $3,000,000 should be made available for each of the fiscal years specified in subparagraph (A) to carry out this section.

(h) Reports-

(1) IN GENERAL- Not later than 18 months after the date of the enactment of this Act and annually thereafter, the Director of Foreign Assistance shall submit to Congress a report regarding the Exchange Program.

(2) CONTENTS- The reports shall include information relating to the following:

(A) Individuals and organizations selected to participate and receive funds and a detailed breakdown of the uses of such funds, including purpose, locations, and results.

(B) The potential for expansion of the Exchange Program.

(C) The number of individuals recruited to participate in the Exchange Program, their countries of origin and their current residences, and the ministry or agency and the locality in which each individual is placed.

(D) A statement of financial accounting.

SEC. 4. LOAN FORGIVENESS FOR EXCHANGE PROGRAM PARTICIPANTS.

(a) Program Established-

(1) PROGRAM AUTHORIZED- The Secretary of State, in cooperation with the Secretary of Education, shall establish and implement a program to cancel the obligation of loan borrowers to pay the principal and interest on student loans for program participants, during their service in the Exchange Program under section 2.

(2) METHOD OF REPAYMENT- The Secretary of State shall carry out such program by repaying in accordance with subsection (b) the principal and interest, not to exceed a total of $10,000, on a loan made under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1070 et seq.) for a borrower who--

(A) has obtained an undergraduate or graduate degree;

(B) is selected to participate in the Exchange Program under section 2 of this Act;

(C) is a United States citizen or permanent legal resident; and

(D) is in repayment status on such loan and is not in default on a loan for which the borrower seeks forgiveness of principal and interest payments.

(b) Terms-

(1) PROMISE TO COMPLETE SERVICE REQUIRED FOR PAYMENT- Any application for payment under subsection (a) shall contain an agreement by the applicant that the applicant will continue in a qualifying service described in subsection (a)(2)(B) for not less than 1 complete year, or will, upon a failure to complete such year, repay the United States the amount of the principal and interest repaid by the Secretary under subsection (a), at a rate and schedule, and in accordance with regulations, prescribed by the Secretary. Such regulations may provide for waiver by the Secretary of such repayment obligations upon proof of economic hardship as specified in such regulations.

(2) PAYMENT IN INSTALLMENTS- After a borrower has been selected as a participant of the Exchange Program under section 2, the Secretary shall make payments under this section while the borrower is in loan repayment status and continues as a participant of such program. The Secretary shall repay a portion of a borrower's outstanding loan, not to exceed a total of $10,000, in the following increments:

(A) Up to $2,000, or 20 percent of the borrower's outstanding loan balance, whichever is less, at the completion of the first year of such service.

(B) Up to $2,500, or 25 percent of the borrower's outstanding loan balance, whichever is less, at the completion of the second year of such service.

(C) Up to $5,000, or 50 percent of the borrower's outstanding loan balance, whichever is less, at the completion of the third and final year of such service.

(c) Regulations- The Secretary of State is authorized to issue such regulations as may be necessary to carry out this section. Such regulations shall establish procedures by which borrowers shall apply for loan repayment under this section.