Red Cross Sitting on a Third of Sandy Donations
$110M remains unspent
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2013 7:07 AM CDT
Updated May 28, 2013 7:48 AM CDT
A Red Cross worker hands up prepared Thanksgiving dinners for linemen as they work Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012, in Seaside Heights, NJ, to repair damage from Superstorm Sandy.   (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

(Newser) – The Red Cross was the top recipient of donations after Superstorm Sandy, bringing in $303 million to help victims. But as of mid-April, $110 million of that remained unused, the organization says. Though the Red Cross—and some disaster relief experts—says that's a good move, allowing it to assist with needs that weren't obvious seven months ago, not everyone is convinced. This past winter, some storm victims "were cold. Homes mildewed. There wasn't enough decent housing," says the director of the Center for the Study of Philanthropy and Civil Society at CUNY. "Given the lingering despair, it's hard to understand the argument that 'We are setting that money aside.'"

Red Cross officials have promised to use all of the Sandy relief money for Sandy recovery, as opposed to using it for other disasters or general operations, but "the Red Cross has never been a recovery operation. Their responsibility has always been mass care" in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, says the executive director of a nonprofit that monitors aid groups. "Stick with what you're good at." Other organizations that raised money for Sandy relief have also waited on spending large portions of it, points out the AP. The news comes as Americans are again giving to the Red Cross in the wake of the tornado in Moore, Okla.; it had raised $15 million as of Thursday.

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Showing 3 of 28 comments
May 28, 2013 5:54 PM CDT
If keeping disaster victims warm in the winter isn't considered "mass care," I don't know what is. Perhaps it's the mass care of red cross employees, the average salary which is $53,549 a year. After all, they have to stay warm as well. (Sarcasm.)
May 28, 2013 4:52 PM CDT
A few extra notes, from the long AP story from which this is condensed: First, another $27 million of the remaining amount is already earmarked for specific Sandy relief & is just being disbursed, which makes it $220 million out, about 73% of the funds raised. Second, the article points out that not all of the federal money has been allocated on a state-by-state basis, so that having reserve makes sense because it can be more properly awarded & sent out once the fed-state $$$ situation is clear. In all the AP does well in showing the story as it is—a debate within aid community and with multiple views, probably all with some validity. As Newser has near the top, it isn't just Red Cross but also disaster relief experts who think that being a little cautious isn't a bad idea. (I don't know, but that could be why the money somebody mentioned in a comment as raised by the NJ gov's wife hasn't gone out--could be it's being held back to fill any fed $$ gaps) I think it is easy to bash any large charity/relief organization if you don't get the whole picture.
May 28, 2013 2:25 PM CDT
I do not give to organizations. I go directly to my local food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, job centers, and similar places and hand my donations of money, goods and/or services to the people in my community. Sometimes I carry small amounts of money that I hand to homeless people in my community (I approach them), and I tell them where our soup kitchen is located. Nothing is more efficient in charity than cutting out the middle guy. The charities I interact with have ZERO overhead. They operate in free spaces (community centers or churches), are staffed exclusively by volunteers, and operate entirely on donations.