Red Cross’ Hurricane Aid Near End

May 14, 2008

Local Red Cross officials said the agency is nearing the end of its storm-relief funds after distributing nearly $200 million to assist in the longterm recovery of victims of the 2005 hurricanes.

Once the money is gone, the Red Cross will resume its more traditional role as a provider of short-term relief and an educator in such areas as first aid and water safety, said Kay Wilkins, head of the agency’s southeast Louisiana chapter.

The Red Cross still plans to keep several long-term case managers to continue helping families with ongoing needs.

Money for some programs will begin running out this summer, she said, and will likely be exhausted by year’s end.

There’s $28 million left to help victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita with rebuilding and recovery needs like utility deposits, child care and appliances, and $26 million to help families with debilitating stress or other mental health issues pay for private therapy or psychological testing.

There’s another $10 million in grants that Red Cross plans to announce soon for large local institutions to help improve their mental-health resources.

The disbursement of those dollars will mark the end of the agency’s longterm involvement in providing aid to Katrina and Rita victims.

The Red Cross, backed by private donations, put about $2.2 billion toward storm relief along the Gulf Coast and to displaced victims, said Wilkins and Jeanne Ellinport, a Red Cross spokeswoman in Washington. Most of that, about $2 billion, went to short-term aid like food, water and cash grants in the storms’ aftermath.

The toll of the storms thrust the Red Cross from its usual role as being a short-term aid provider. With the help of nonprofits, it began disbursing about $200 million in services to families needing long-term help to rebuild their lives, Wilkins said.

Once the remaining funding is gone, it’s not clear what the level of outstanding needs will be, Wilkins said.

Source: The Times-Picayune.

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