Red Cross: Over $100 million in Sandy aid still unspent
The Red Cross raised about $303 million to help those affected by hurricane Sandy, but only two-thirds of it has been spent, prompting criticism that the Red Cross is losing sight of its role in emergency relief.
(Page 2 of 2)
Red Cross officials noted that a year after a tornado killed 158 people in Joplin, Mo., it found itself providing a new round of mental health services to survivors. The cholera epidemic that killed thousands of people following a massive earthquake in Haiti, where the Red Cross was also criticized for not spending donations faster, didn't start until nearly a year after the disaster.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Sandy: Chronicle of an unrelenting storm
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The Red Cross says it is planning substantial grants to other nonprofit groups doing Sandy recovery work and is doing much of its current work in conjunction with charitable partners with local ties.
On Wednesday, it plans to announce a $1.25 million grant to the Brooklyn Community Foundation, which has in turn been making donations to neighborhood associations and committees working on a wide array of storm recovery projects, from cleaning mold to repairing sinkholes.
Red Cross volunteers working with the organizing group New York Cares are going out several days a week to muck and clean flooded homes and remove mold. Red Cross staff and caseworkers have been holding "unmet needs roundtables" in hard-hit communities, trying to identify victims not covered by traditional aid programs.
"Our experience shows that as the recovery goes on, the needs of survivors will evolve," said Roger Lowe, Red Cross senior vice president. "It's important to make sure some money is available for those needs no one can predict right now."
Other organizations that raised large sums for the relief effort have also held back money while they evaluated the wisest way to spend it.
The Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund, led by Mary Pat Christie, wife of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, raised $32 million after the storm but didn't begin awarding grants on a large scale until April. So far, it has given about $11 million, with the biggest grants going to local organizations building or repairing housing.
The United Way, which raised $9.7 million in a Sandy recovery fund for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and some parts of Pennsylvania, said it has spent about $4 million of that total to date, though another $2.5 million is set to go out soon.
"We always knew, from the very beginning, that our fund and our resources would be for longer-term strategies," said United Way of New York City President Sheena Wright. "We feel good about the timeframe."
That strategy of holding some cash to spend later contrasts with the approach taken by the Robin Hood Foundation, which was in charge of distributing more than $70 million raised by a Dec. 12 benefit concert by Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, and other music royalty.
That fund was depleted entirely by April, with grants given to 400 relief organizations ranging from food banks to legal services to volunteer rebuilding groups.
Robin Hood spokeswoman Patty Smith said the foundation moved as fast as it could because it believed that delays in government aid were leaving big gaps in services.
RECOMMENDED: 4 smart ways to rebuild after superstorm Sandy
Red Cross officials say they have the ability to meet both long-term and short-term needs, noting the organization has served 17 million meals and snacks, distributed 7 million relief items, mobilized 17,000 workers and volunteers, and provided 81,000 overnight stays.
Its efforts won over early critics like Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, who assailed the Red Cross response in the days immediately after the storm but now praises it as having provided vital help.
"They've come a long way since Day One," Molinaro said.