Thursday, July 18, 2013
The N.Y. Times reports that New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is demanding that some of the large charities that received donations for Hurricane Sandy relief explain how they have handled those donations, including why almost half of the more than $575 billion raised has not been spent as of April 2013. He documented his concerns in a report issued this week that found charities reported as of April not having spent $238 million, or 42 percent, of these donations. The N.Y. Charities Bureau has also posted the responses of the charities to November 2012 and March 2013 inquiries regarding their Hurricane Sandy fundraising and spending. Among the charities that received the largest amounts, the Robin Hood Foundation stands out because it reported as of March 21, 2013 having made grants representing 97% of the $70.5 million in Hurricane Sandy funds it raised, and according to the NY Times article it has now given out all of those funds. In contrast, the American Red Cross reported on April 15, 2013 that through the end of March it had raised $323.5 million and spent $153.5 million.
Of course, there are many legitimate reasons why such funds would remain unspent even five months after Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast in late October 2012. For example, the American Red Cross' response notes that it is still providing emergency relief in the form of food and mental health counseling to some hurricane victims while also providing long term assistance that can extend over a period of months or years, such disaster clean up, individual case work, financial assistance relating to housing, and grants to local organizations designed to help communities recover. Nevertheless, this high profile criticism shows the need for groups involved in disaster relief to explain why such relief is necessarily spread out over a significant amount of time as individuals and communities struggle to recover.