[JURIST] US President Barack Obama on Friday signed [press release] a bill [text, PDF] that will allow Americans to claim contributions made to Haitian earthquake [JURIST news archive] relief efforts as a deduction on their 2009 federal income tax returns. Under the new law, monetary donations made between January 11 and March 1, 2010, including those made by cellular telephone, are eligible for the exemption. The measure is designed to encourage additional contributions, as without the bill, taxpayers would not be able to receive credit until next year. Similar legislation [text, PDF] was passed in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami [JURIST news archive].
On January 12, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake [USGS backgrounder] caused massive damage to property and infrastructure in Haiti. The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti [official website] has said that up to 50 percent of buildings [statement, PDF] have been destroyed or damaged, including the presidential palace, the UN Mission headquarters, and the main prison, allowing nearly 4,000 inmates to escape [JURIST report]. Thousand of US military troops have been deployed to assist the Haitian police and international peacekeepers as they confront rising lawlessness [JURIST report] in the country. Haitian government officials estimate [Al Jazeera report] the death toll to be as high as 100,000 to 200,000.