New York State Attorney General Questions Charities' Disbursement of Sandy Aid

Of the more than $575 million raised for Superstorm Sandy relief efforts, at least $238 million had not been disbursed as of April 1, an interim report released by the New York State attorney general's office finds.

Based on survey responses from eighty-nine charitable organizations, the report, Charitable Response to Hurricane Sandy (26 pages, PDF), found that $336 million, or 58 percent of total contributions, had been spent on Sandy relief efforts — with nearly half that amount granted to other organizations. At the same time, some of the organizations surveyed reported that funds not yet disbursed may be used for other purposes, including paying for preexisting administration and overhead costs, raising questions about why they have not allocated more funds to Sandy victims and whether they have been transparent in communicating with donors.

The American Red Cross, which raised approximately $300 million, established cut-off dates after which certain donations were no longer set aside for Sandy relief. Donations made online and by telephone after November 26 and by text message after December 31, 2012, for example, were not directed to Sandy relief efforts unless the donations were "restricted" to such efforts or were made in response to Sandy-specific fundraising campaigns. And while sixty-eight charities said they expected to spend all the funds they raised on Sandy relief, seventeen charities planned to use any surplus funds for other purposes, including contributing to a general disaster relief fund, conducting research, or helping prepare for future disasters.

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said his office's Charities Bureau would send letters to at least fifty organizations, including the Red Cross, demanding a more detailed accounting of Sandy-related contributions. "Sadly, even today, we have far more questions than answers about how charitable donations for Hurricane Sandy relief have been used — or why this money has not been spent so many months after the storm," Schneiderman told the New York Times. "It is crucial, both for the victims and for the donors who gave so generously, that these funds are deployed as quickly and effectively as possible."