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Plea to Sen. Charles Grassley: Hold Red Cross Accountable for Katrina Donations


Kirby Sommers for Katrina Home Drive

Press Release: August 20, 2007

A Plea to The Senate Finance Committee: Hold the Red Cross Accountable for Help Denied Katrina Survivors!

Immediately after Katrina, The American Red Cross and its Board of Governors became subject of an investigation by the Senate Finance Committee following unanswered questions regarding the handling of its flawed initial response to Hurricane Katrina.

Two years later, the Red Cross has done very little to alleviate human suffering through their Hurricane Recovery Program. In lieu of much needed financial help, a flood of media nonsense, sloppy website cover-ups, and double talk by CEO Mark Everson and other Red Cross spokespersons have surfaced.

This has added to the confusion, stress and alienation felt by exhausted survivors.

“Whenever I have tried to get assistance from the Red Cross, I have been told there was nothing available,’ Mrs. Marchand now living in Union City, GA wrote me just last week. “We are seniors. You see, we had lost everything to Betsy and never thought we would see anything like that again. Then Katrina came. I was the only one who could do anything. My husband just stayed in the car and cried like a baby. It did not compare to Betsy, it was worse. Then the news came of so many of our friends and relatives who lost their lives. We feel like wanderers in a strange country. My husband is a changed person. He suffered a stroke. My husband used to take care of everything, not anymore. I’m worn, tired, sick and old, but have to do everything. In spite of that I can’t find any help for us. Now my husband he just sits and waits for death.”

Senator Charles E. Grassley, the Iowa Republican who is the committee’s chairman, told the Red Cross in December 2005 “It’s time for the Red Cross board to start answering questions about its role in the turmoil at the top of this premiere charitable organization.”

One of Senator Grassley’s initial concerns was the poor working relationship the Red Cross has with leaders of local charities. A larger concern should be ensuring the Red Cross immediately disburse all funds to help as many survivors as possible.

Today, on behalf of Katrina survivors I ask Senator Grassley, The Senate Finance Committee, and members of the House of Representatives to bring the Red Cross before Congress to safeguard the integrity of donations entrusted to them.

Of the $2.3 billion this charitable organization raised for Katrina, we now know only 1,100 chosen families received various levels of help through a secretive program known as “Means to Recovery.” It should be noted this help was not given to the families directly, but rather to vendors to help with such things as building materials, furniture, used cars, job training and other unmet needs.

Additionally, Means to Recovery was created to assist a mere 4,000 families. This fact alone is alarming. It is painfully clear the Red Cross is not the humanitarian organization people once believed it to be. There have been too many mishaps on their part. Consistent mishaps. These should not be excused or looked over or washed over -- ever again.

We can no longer accept another resignation as a sign that things will get better. We can no longer accept that a new CEO will be the solution to the problems. We can no longer absolve these people of their crimes against humanity.

When someone like Marsha Evans resigns, she should have been sent to jail. Instead she received a huge severance package with the luxury of going to a safe, intact home. When the time comes for Mark Everson to resign, and it will, he too should go directly to jail.

Better yet, why not have Marsha Evans and Mark Everson live in the shoes of a survivor who has wood slats for floors and rats running rampant through a home in need of repair? I know many people who live in homes like these and can recommend one or two.

Today, on behalf of Katrina survivors everywhere I ask the Red Cross and Mark Everson to use the remaining $193 million dollars in direct assistance to individuals and families. I further ask the term “Means to Recovery” be replaced with “Recovery for All.”

Today, on behalf of Katrina survivors everywhere I ask the Red Cross to put back into the Hurricane Recovery Program the $25 million donation given to them by The State of Kuwait and used to build four buildings for themselves.

Additionally, as a preventive measure for future milestone events such as 9/11 and Katrina, I ask Congress pass a law requiring all donations go into separate escrow bank accounts and not allow, ever again, for the commingling of monies on the part of nonprofits involved in relief efforts.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that today, August 20, 2007, demonstrations by survivors are being held in front of local Red Cross offices in several states. When the Red Cross discovered that Peoples Hurricane Relief of New Orleans was organizing these protests, they [Red Cross] instructed their employees and volunteers not to go to work. Even for the Red Cross, this is a new low: hiding from those they are meant to help.

On behalf of survivors still spread across the United States, I urge Senator Grassley to add the concerns of 4,000,000 people to his initial complaint against the American Red Cross and stop the turmoil once and for all.



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