President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $2.8 billion in aid for earthquake-wracked Haiti, jumpstarting a global push to raise billions of dollars for the country's reconstruction.
The request comes a week before international donors meet at the United Nations to plot how to finance a reconstruction effort that has been pegged at $11.5 billion.
The White House said its opening bid "lays the foundation for the continued recovery and reconstruction in Haiti.
"Meeting the challenges that face Haiti will require a sustained and substantial commitment from the international community,'' said spokeswoman Moira Mack. "This request reflects a targeted expenditure that will help to leverage additional support at the UN Donors Conference and beyond to ensure the contribution to Haiti's future is a truly international one.'
Aid organizations, who had pressed for $3 billion, welcomed the news.
"That is a substantial opening salvo in terms of Haiti's reconstruction and renewal,'' said Mark Schneider, a former U.S. official who coordinated the response to Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
Observers say there is considerable good will on Congress for getting the request passed. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations committee, Wednesday called the emergency funding "a must.
"It's a non-negotiable measurement of how the United States responds to a humanitarian emergency and we need to pass this $1 billion in new assistance for Haiti right away,'' Kerry said.