Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Local Remarks on Haiti

From Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-13):

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz supported legislation today to help earthquake victims in Haiti by offering an immediate tax benefit to Americans who make charitable donations to the region. The bipartisan legislation will allow individuals to claim any donations to the relief effort as an itemized deduction on their 2009 tax return, instead of waiting to claim it on their 2010 return.

The bill would also ensure that those individuals donating to victims of the Haiti earthquake via text message will be able to use their cell phone bill when claiming a charitable donation.

“The situation in Haiti has been absolutely devastating and there has already been an incredible outpouring of support from the American people to help those suffering in the region,” said Schwartz, an original co-sponsor of the bill. “This legislation will provide an immediate benefit for those who have already made a generous donation and will encourage even more people to help aid the relief effort. Any contribution, large or small, is critical to helping those struggling after this tragedy.”

In January of 2005, Congress enacted this type of relief for individuals that made charitable contributions to victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami that occurred in late December of 2004.

In addition to passing this measure, the House of Representatives voted to pass a resolution expressing condolences to and solidarity with, the people of Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of January 12th, 2010.

State Rep. Bryan Lentz (D-161) (also a candidate for the 7th congressional district:
Today, Representative Bryan Lentz released the following statement regarding the two bipartisan measures passed unanimously today by the House of Representatives aimed at expediting aid to the Haitian people.

“I applaud Congress for this swift bipartisan action to aid the Haitian people in this time of crisis. With nearly 200,000 reported deaths and over 1.5 million Haitians left homeless after this devastating earthquake, it is imperative that the American people take whatever action we can to assist our neighbors in relief and recovery operations,” said Lentz. “By offering immediate income tax relief to Americans who donate to this worthy cause, the bill will encourage continued American generosity in the days and weeks ahead when the people of Haiti most desperately need it.

“In a day and age when unanimous Congressional action is rare, it is important to send the message to the American people and the world that this recovery effort is of the highest priority. I am grateful for the outpouring of selfless support that we have already seen in this country,” said Lentz. “I firmly believe this bill will help to motivate even more donations and humanitarian aid.”

“In this time of great need for the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, Americans have responded with swift generosity, contributing more than $220 million to U.S. relief groups. This money will fund relief for the homeless, medical attention for the injured, and assistance to all those struggling from the severe damage to their homes, schools, ports, roads, and hospitals.

“I am proud of the American people for their immediate and compassionate response in the wake of this tragedy. These bipartisan bills will encourage continued efforts by the government and the people to aid the devastated communities of Haiti, and I commend our representatives for enacting them quickly” said Lentz.

-- Bryan Lentz is a former Army Airborne Ranger, criminal prosecutor and Iraq war veteran who currently serves in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from Delaware County. He also served overseas as a peace-keeper in Bosnia and the Sinai Peninsula and was awarded both the Bronze Star for Service and the War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal for his military service. He lives in Swarthmore with his wife Jennifer and their son Thomas.

The first bill, H.R. 4462, will help in the efforts to build a relief fund by speeding up the tax deduction for charitable contributions made to victims of the earthquake. The bill allows individuals who have donated to help the victims in Haiti between January 11 and March 1 to claim these charitable contributions on their 2009 tax return instead of waiting until 2010. This measure provides an immediate benefit to those who have already contributed and an extra incentive to those who are still considering making a donation.

The bill also clarifies that a cell phone bill will be sufficient to claim a donation made by text message on a tax return. This new and innovative donation method has already generated a $22 million for victims of the earthquake.

The second resolution is an official expression of the legislature’s condolences and sympathy for the victims of this tragedy and commendation for the domestic and international organizations and people that have so far contributed to the relief efforts. It also encourages the President to continue to make resources available to aid in the aftermath of this natural disaster.

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