American Red Cross Tops $1 Billion in Hurricane Response

The all-out effort staged by the American Red Cross to meet the emergency needs of more than 2 million survivors directly affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita comes at a high cost: More than $1.21 billion has been spent or committed by the agency to date and it expects the operation to top the $2 billion mark.

The Red Cross is spending nearly $35 million a day just on financial assistance to meet the emergency needs of families. As of today, the Red Cross has raised $1.125 billion in gifts and pledges, of which approximately $856 million has been received.

"We are incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support from our donors. In the face of unimaginable devastation, we were able to provide unprecedented levels of immediate emergency services, thanks to the public's generosity," said Marsha J. Evans, president and CEO of the American Red Cross. "We still have a long road ahead. The next 30 days will be just as critical as the past 30 days."

She noted the Red Cross has been planning for and responding to disasters for 125 years, and the damage done by these hurricanes eclipses even the most dire scenarios. More than one month after Hurricane Katrina first hit, amplified by Hurricane Rita, hundreds of thousands of people still need help.

"No one could have anticipated the monumental need and additional funding is vital to continue to provide critical emergency services to hurricane survivors," said Evans. "We are relying on our corporate partners, foundations and the American people to help their neighbors in need through the Red Cross."

In the largest sheltering operation in its history, the Red Cross has provided nearly 3 million overnight stays in more than 1,150 shelters across 27 states and the District of Columbia, in addition to housing nearly 400,000 survivors in hotels in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In comparison, during all of the 2004 hurricane season, the Red Cross provided 427,000 overnight stays for evacuees. Furthermore, Katrina alone impacted 15 times the number of families needing assistance after all four hurricanes in 2004. Rita, which did not live up to the worst-case projections, was still bigger than any one of those 2004 hurricanes.

Partnering with the Southern Baptists and others, the Red Cross has doubled its capacity to feed survivors. Since Katrina first made landfall, more than 15 million hot meals have been provided along with 10 million snacks. On one day, more than 1 million meals were served – four times the previous record of 276,000 meals in one day during last year's hurricane aftermath.

This record-setting meal service was accomplished despite daunting challenges posed by power outages, water system disruptions and impassable roads.

Financial assistance to more than 721,000 families (approximately 2.3 million people) has been the most expensive part of the relief operation thus far. More than 35,000 families per day are receiving cash in hand, at an average of approximately $1,000 per family. A total of $715 million has been spent or committed already to allow survivors to buy items essential to begin their recovery.

To date, the Red Cross has mobilized more than 174,000 disaster relief volunteers and staff.

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