In the months since Hurricane Harvey caused widespread flooding in Houston and along the Texas Gulf coast, $928 million has been raised for relief, recovery, and rebuilding efforts in the region, the Associated Press reports.
Of the total, the American Red Cross has raised the most ($493 million), followed by the Greater Houston Community Foundation's Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund ($108 million), the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation's Rebuild Texas Fund ($89 million), and nondenominational evangelical Christian organization Samaritan's Purse ($86 million). In addition, the United Way has raised more than $54 million, the online campaign started by Houston Texans star J.J. Watt has raised $37 million, and the Salvation Army and a fund created by the government of Qatar have each pledged $30 million.
At least 40 percent of the total raised has been spent or disbursed to date, according to available data. The Red Cross told the AP it had spent $254 million, while GHCF has distributed at least $36 million to local groups and plans to announce a new round of grants in January.
"We're trying to balance a sense of great urgency to make sure people who need help are getting it rapidly, while at the same time a sense of care and responsibility to our donors to ensure that the funds are being spent effectively and efficiently," said GHCF's Renee Wizig-Barrios.
Despite raising nearly half a billion dollars, the Red Cross has been criticized by Houston mayor Sylvester Turner and Texas governor Greg Abbott for its lackluster response, the latter saying he was concerned that money given to the organization "was not getting into the hands of the people who need it." Although disaster recovery experts note that coordination is key in relief and recovery efforts, the Red Cross has not been invited to meetings of key aid groups convened by the Houston Endowment. A spokesperson for the endowment said the Red Cross wasn't included because the meetings are for groups making grants to local nonprofits. In response, a spokesperson for the Red Cross told the AP that it has "active collaborative efforts" under way with other organizations.