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At least $238 million of the more than $575 million that was raised for Hurricane Sandy relief has not been spent as of April, according to a report released last week by the New York attorney general.
The report, Charitable Response to Hurricane Sandy, also questions if some of those funds were actually spent on overhead or other nonrelated purposes to the storm. At least one nonprofit is pushing back.
The report is based on responses to questionnaires sent by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's Charities Bureau to 89 charities that raised funds in New York for Hurricane Sandy relief. The findings have prompted Schneiderman to announce that the Charities Bureau will send letters to at least 50 organizations demanding greater accounting of Sandy-related contributions.
Key highlights from the report include:
• Charities reported raising more than $575 million in funds for Sandy relief, and spending more than $336 million, or 58 percent of that amount for Sandy relief.
• Charities reported that $238 million, or 42 percent of the total raised, was unspent.
• Five organizations account for almost 80 percent of the total funds raised.
• The American Red Cross was the largest fundraiser, reporting having raised more thab $299 million, over half of the funds raised for Hurricane Sandy relief by the responding organizations.
• The American Red Cross reported that it established cut-off dates after which certain donations were no longer applied to Sandy relief. All donations made to its disaster relief fund online and by telephone from Oct. 28 through Nov. 26, and donations made by text through Dec. 31 were applied to Sandy relief. After those dates, donations were not applied to Hurricane Sandy relief unless the donations were "restricted" to Hurricane Sandy or the donations were made in response to Sandy-specific fundraising.
• Seventeen organizations reported that they may use funds raised following the storm for non-Sandy purposes, including for future disasters.
• Of the $336 million spent by the responding organizations, almost half was granted to other organizations.
The report highlights the organizations that have the highest percentage of unspent funds, topped by the Center for Disaster Responsibility. According to the report, the Center raised $442,498 toward Sandy relief and has not spent any of it. In a statement, CDP said, "to suggest that all monies should have been spent by now or that all of the many problems caused by Sandy should have already been fixed shows the attorney general’s misunderstanding of the devastating nature of Sandy and the complexity of rebuilding…
"By design, the CDP Hurricane Sandy Disaster Fund was created to give donors an opportunity to maximize the impact of their generosity to support the full life cycle of the disaster. Our donors told us to emphasize funding that is medium- and long-term in nature and based upon the prevailing needs that emerge in the weeks and months to come. We are doing exactly what our donors expected us to do, and what we believe will best serve the needs of Sandy-affected communities."
CDP will announce the grantees of the CDP Hurricane Sandy Disaster fund in the next few weeks.
The Charities Bureau will ask organizations to consider redirecting funds they are not using for Hurricane Sandy relief to other organizations that are continuing to provide assistance.