Nearly $3 billion in US humanitarian aid to Ukraine remains unspent

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GOP lawmakers want to know why the money is in limbo

A local resident walks next to a street market destroyed by military strikes, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, in Saltivka, one of the most damaged residential areas of Kharkiv, Ukraine September 6 2022. REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

Adam Kredo • September 9, 2022 3:10 p.m.

The Biden administration has yet to deliver more than $2.8 billion in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, fueling concerns in Congress that the administration is undermining its own relief efforts as Russia strikes the country.

Congress has released some $7 billion in recent months to help the US Agency for International Development (USAID) carry out humanitarian projects in Ukraine. But as of this month, nearly $3 billion of that money has still not been spent. A group of Republican senators are demanding an explanation from USAID about why a substantial portion of the money they appropriated remains in limbo, according to a letter sent to the agency on Friday and obtained by the Free Washington Beacon.

The seven Republican lawmakers, led by Sen. Joni Ernst (R., Iowa), say they are concerned “that the generosity of the American people is not being used properly and quickly to help Ukraine,” according to the letter. “These extraordinary appropriations from Congress must be mobilized quickly and effectively to deal with the unfolding crisis.”

The administration’s “excessive reliance” on United Nations agencies involved in humanitarian relief efforts has been “exacerbated by the fact that USAID only has the equivalent of four and a half contract staff full time overseeing billions of taxpayer dollars through the Office of Humanitarian Aid”. “This caused bureaucratic delays and prevented all financial aid from reaching Ukraine.

The senators are asking USAID and the State Department, which both oversee aid projects, to provide them with a “detailed strategy” to quickly transfer remaining aid dollars to Ukrainians in need. They also want USAID’s Office of Humanitarian Assistance to explain why so few workers are tasked with handling these pressing issues.

Congress, at the request of the administration, suspended normal procedures for allocating the $7 billion in humanitarian assistance through two separate packages. Information obtained by lawmakers shows that USAID has only committed 73.78% of the funds made available in the first package, and only 50.03% of the funds made available in the second. This represents the $2.8 billion that remains unspent.

“While USAID has made positive progress in recent months on the speed of committing and committing these aid dollars, much more needs to be done,” Ernst and colleagues write.

Both USAID and the State Department have ignored calls from Congress for aid money to be distributed more quickly.

“Repeated, bipartisan calls on the State Department and USAID to onboard new nongovernmental organization partners, expedite food aid delivery, and increase [USAID’s] ability to contract have gone unanswered,” the lawmakers say.

While Congress has done its part by giving the Biden administration all the money it has asked for, the delay in unloading those funds threatens to halt humanitarian efforts on the ground.

“Supporting Ukrainians as they fight to expel Russia from their territory, avert a global humanitarian crisis, and prevent mass starvation are all urgent missions, and Congress has stepped in by providing billions of dollars in emergency funding. “, says the letter. “The budgetary and programmatic efficiency of the American response must improve.”

The senators say they will continue to press USAID on the issue until “every dollar appropriated” by Congress is “used to protect our vital national security interests.” the global humanitarian crisis.”

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