Red Cross Says Disaster Fund Nearly Depleted

The American Red Cross (search) said Monday that its disaster fund has been nearly depleted, after it spent three times more in aid to victims in the past year than it received in contributions.

Ray Steen, Red Cross spokesman in Washington, D.C., said that if the fund is depleted the Red Cross would have to tap other accounts, such as money used to administer blood donations.

"We will continue to meet immediate disaster needs," he said. "But something is going to have to be sacrificed."

The fund had $1.5 million as of June 30, its lowest balance since 1992, when the fund ran out entirely. Steen said "a normal, healthy balance" is $56 million. In the past year, the Red Cross spent $85 million and received only $26 million in contributions, he said.

A typhoon that swept through Guam in December cost the Red Cross $23 million. Last month, the Red Cross helped tornado victims in Texas and Minnesota and flood victims (search) in Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, Mississippi, Louisiana, Minnesota, Florida and North Carolina.

"It's these continuing hits of disaster that don't necessarily make the headlines ... that are quickly depleting the disaster relief fund," Steen said.

The slumping economy also has hurt donations, the Red Cross said.

Steen said the Red Cross is preparing to help any victims of Tropical Storm Claudette (search), which was bearing down on Texas on Monday. But if the storm causes major damage, it could empty the fund, he said.

Last month, the Red Cross launched a national fund-raising campaign to replenish the disaster relief fund. The goal is to raise $30 million by September.

Red Cross assistance to disaster victims can include shelter, food, and vouchers for clothing, medicine and other items.