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WASHINGTON — Legislation to lift the cap on annual assistance under a Department of Health and Human Services program that aids U.S. citizens returning from war zones or similar crises cleared the Senate by unanimous consent Tuesday.
The measure would raise the funding cap for the U.S. Repatriation Program from $1 million to $10 million this fiscal year and next, with the money in this case set aside for Americans evacuated from Afghanistan after the U.S. troop pullout, which was completed Monday.
Vice President Kamala Harris presided over the Senate’s pro forma session, where the bill cleared with no objections. Before the Senate action, a White House official said Harris’ presence was to allow “passage of a bill that will help with the repatriation of Americans coming from Afghanistan.”
It’s a similar aid boost that lawmakers and the Trump administration provided last year for Americans stuck overseas when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.
The HHS repatriation program provides cash payments, medical assistance, temporary shelter, transportation and counseling for U.S. citizens and their dependents. Eligible individuals include those identified by the State Department as being “without available resources,” and having returned from a foreign country as a result of “destitution, illness, war, threat of war, or a similar crisis.”
The bill passed the House by unanimous consent on Aug. 25 after being discharged from the Ways and Means and Budget panels. The funding is designated as an emergency requirement, exempting it from rules subjecting deficit-increasing bills to a potential point of order requiring 60 votes to waive.
(Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.)
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