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February 16, 1999

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In light of the close consultation we have had, and the bipartisan recognition that the needs for reconstruction are pressing, I urge the Congress to act quickly to restore hope to this region and help our neighbors return to the path of democracy and economic growth.

President Bill Clinton
February 16, 1999

Today, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mrs. Tipper Gore will announce an Administration proposal to provide $956 million in funding to pay for the costs of disaster relief in the wake of Hurricanes Mitch and Georges, which hit Central American and Caribbean nations last fall.

A Sustained Response To Disaster Relief Needs In Central America And The Caribbean. In the aftermath of the devastating hurricanes in Central America last autumn, the United States government has led relief efforts in the area. To date, the United States has provided more than $300 million in humanitarian relief aid, including, medicine, emergency shelter, food, clothing, and funding for the work of civilian and military relief workers.

Building On Our Support Efforts In Central America And The Caribbean. Today's proposal of $956 million in aid builds on our efforts to help countries devastated by Hurricanes Mitch and Georges. As part of this funding, the Clinton Administration is proposing $613 million, $50 million of which will be targeted at relief efforts in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the Eastern Caribbean. The remainder of this funding will support efforts in Central America to:

  • Restore clean water and sanitation systems and preserve public health, including, repairing 700 damaged health clinics to serve at least 4 million people, provide clean water and sanitation for 7 million people, and stem the spread of contagious diseases through health surveillance and prevention for more than 17 million people;
  • Help rebuild housing, schools, and roads, including, temporary shelter for 20,000 people, building 6,400 new housing units, and establishing 6,000 temporary "open-air" schools and repair more than 1,700 schools;
  • Restore agriculture, rebuild economies and create jobs, including, technical assistance and delivery of seeds, fertilizer, and tools to small farmers, providing 70,000 micro-enterprise loans, providing credit subsidies to the U.S. Export-Import Bank for short and medium term trade credits for imports of essential goods from the U.S., rebuilding roads and bridges, and funding business outreach through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation;
  • Help local governments manage the crisis with advice and help in reconstruction and in the management of funding to insure that assistance is used effectively and serves its intended goal

Providing Environmental Management Support. As part of the $956 million relief proposal, the Clinton Administration would direct $64 million to:

  • Assist farmers to use agriculture methods less likely to result in soil erosion, which would help reduce the damage from future hurricanes, and will encourage farmers to shift to more productive crops;
  • Help local governments establish land use planning systems to mitigate effects of future hurricanes and protect key ecosystems.

Debt Relief For Countries Rebuilding In The Wake Of Devastation. In order to enable Central American nations to concentrate on rebuilding their economies, the Administration's proposal would provide debt relief with:

  • A deferral by the U.S. of all bilateral debt service requirements for the next two years ($54 million);
  • An increase in forgiveness of $19 million of Nicaragua's bilateral debt, and $26 million of Honduras' bilateral debt, bringing our total debt forgiveness to 90 percent of all Nicaraguan debt and 66 percent of all Honduran debt;
  • A contribution by the United States of $25 million to a multi-nation fund to cover debt obligations of Nicaragua and Honduras to international financial institutions during the deferral period.

Fact Sheet: Hurricane Mitch

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February 16, 1999

The United Stated Responds to Hurrican Mitch