US proposes fiscal Ebola relief

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A health worker returns to her ambulance outside Freetown in Sierra Leone.

Ebola-stricken Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone might get $100 million in debt relief if the US gets its way.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew suggested in a statement Tuesday that the International Monetary Fund ought to forgive that much for the three countries, whose economies will likely suffer in the virus's wake.

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"IMF debt relief will promote economic sustainability in the worst hit countries by freeing up resources for both immediate needs and longer-term recovery efforts," Lew said in a statement. Reuters first reported the proposal Tuesday.

The three countries owe the IMF a collective $336 million. The organization has estimated that Liberia will see its economic growth fall more than 70% this year and Sierra Leone will see its growth fall by 60%. Guinea's growth is expected to increase.

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A Treasury spokeswoman said that the IMF could finance such an effort with money from a $268 million-emergency relief fund set up for Haiti after its earthquake. The fund still has $150 million in it, she wrote in an email.

She added that Lew would speak more about the plan at the G-20 Finance Ministers Meeting in Brisbane, Australia next week.

An IMF spokesman said that the organization is preparing a response and declined to comment until then.

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