WASHINGTON – Six months after Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast, charities have handed out two-thirds of the record sums they raised to help storm victims.
The Washington Post reports more than $2 billion has been dispensed to hurricane-hit residents, more than half of it in cash, to pay for immediate short-term needs such as food and water, medical supplies and emergency housing.
Officials say the long-term needs in rebuilding the region and aiding residents will cost hundreds of billions of dollars. "There are many, many needs that the federal government cannot cover," said Don Powell, who was appointed by President Bush as coordinator of the Gulf's long-term recovery in November.
"It's not public works. It's not water, sewage or utilities. It's the soul of our life," Powell told the Post.
It is unclear what the government will pay for compared to what charities will have to contribute. Organizations predict that they will have to cover the difference for many residents who, while eligible for federal aid, will not be able to afford to rebuild. Many nonprofit organizations, according to the Post, say the poor government response to the disaster is prompting groups to spend charitable money on projects that might otherwise be paid for by the government.
The Post identified 15 charities that collected the most money for hurricane victims, and surveyed them on the amounts collected and disbursed. The money has been spent on victims' immediate needs, such as cash, food and temporary shelter, the newspaper said.
Much of the spending has been driven by the American Red Cross, which has spent 84 percent of the $2.1 billion it raised. The Salvation Army has spent 36 percent of the $336 million it raised. Of the estimated $1 billion remaining, more than half is in the hands of faith based organizations, according to the Post.
Overall, the charities raised a total of $3.27 billion in donations. They have $960 million remaining, according to the Post.