Red Cross Releases Breakdown of Superstorm Sandy Spending

The American Red Cross has released a copy of a July 2013 letter that explains how it spent nearly $130 million in donations for Superstorm Sandy relief — information it had previously withheld, citing "trade secrets," ProPublica reports.

The 108-page letter to the New York State Office of the Attorney General provides a breakdown of $129.3 million in expenditures as of March 31, 2013, while in an additional note the organization said that as of June 30, 2014, it had spent $239 million on post-Sandy relief efforts and made "firm commitments" to spend most of the rest of the $312 million raised. As of June 2014, the organization had spent $129.6 million on financial assistance, food, and other relief items (up from $49.8 million as of March 2013); $46.1 million on deployment of staff and volunteers (up from $35.5 million); $30 million on permanent program resources as part of its Superstorm Sandy response (unchanged since March 2013); $9.1 million on equipment, maintenance, and repairs (up from $6.1 million); $4.7 million on professional and consulting services (up from $3.5 million); $6.6 million on communication, shipping, freight, and other operational costs (up from $2.6 million); and $13.1 million on compensation and benefits for temporary staff assigned full-time to response and recovery efforts (up from $1.9 million).

Red Cross spokesperson Anne Marie Borrego told ProPublica that the organization had reversed its position on the letter because "with all of the disasters the American Red Cross responds to and the peak of hurricane season fast approaching, it simply isn't worth our time and resources to continue these efforts over a year-old letter."

The letter stops short of detailing how the Red Cross allocated resources geographically or the rate at which money was spent, ProPublica notes. Ben Smilowitz, founder of the Disaster Accountability Project, said that while he is glad the Red Cross has released new details on its post-Sandy spending, the information raises questions about the cost of cross-country volunteer deployments and the "slow pace of spending [of] relief dollars, considering the significant outstanding needs that went unaddressed following the storm."

Justin Elliott. "Red Cross Reverses Stance on Sandy Spending 'Trade Secrets'." ProPublica 08/15/2014.