Correction to This Article
A Feb. 27 article about donations to charities helping victims of the Gulf Coast hurricanes misstated the amount of money the United Methodist Committee on Relief has available for long-term charity work in that region. It has dispensed $14.1 million and has $55.5 million remaining. Also, the value of its contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency was misstated. The value is $66 million, not $60 million.

Two-Thirds of Katrina Donations Exhausted

Minnesotans Mike Harrington and Roger Anderson carry supplies from one home to another in East Biloxi, Miss.
Minnesotans Mike Harrington and Roger Anderson carry supplies from one home to another in East Biloxi, Miss. (By Katherine Frey -- The Washington Post)

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By Jacqueline L. Salmon and Leef Smith
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, February 27, 2006

Six months after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to the Gulf Coast, charities have disbursed more than $2 billion of the record sums they raised for the storm's victims, leaving less than $1 billion for the monumental task of helping hundreds of thousands of storm victims rebuild their lives, according to a survey by The Washington Post.

Two-thirds of the $3.27 billion raised by private nonprofit organizations and tracked by The Post went to help evacuees and other Katrina victims with immediate needs -- cash, food and temporary shelter, medical care, tarps for damaged homes and school supplies for displaced children.

What's left, say charities and federal officials, will need to be stretched over years to rebuild lives and reconstruct the social fabric of the Gulf Coast -- from job training to mental health counseling to rebuilding the homes of the poor to reestablishing arts organizations and paying clergy as they wait for their congregations to return.

The Post survey, the first detailed examination of the largest outpouring of charity in the nation's history, also found the following:

· The American Red Cross, which was criticized for slow distribution of donations after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has given out 84 percent of its Katrina and Rita donations.

· 50 cents of each donated dollar went out in cash to victims.

· 6 percent of contributions came in the form of supplies -- building materials, food, water, clothing, heavy equipment -- donated mostly by corporations.

· 56 percent of remaining donations are controlled by faith-based organizations. They include such well-known institutions as Catholic Charities USA and the Salvation Army but also such lower-profile groups as the United Methodist Committee on Relief and United Jewish Communities.

What remains to be done goes well beyond even the staggering costs of rebuilding infrastructure -- projects estimated to require nearly $200 billion in government aid over the long term.

"There are many, many needs that the federal government cannot cover," said Don Powell, a former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chairman who was named coordinator of the Gulf's long-term recovery by President Bush in November. Many are "the crucial part of life that we all depend on," he said. "It's not public works. It's not water, sewage or utilities. It's the soul of our life."

No one has put a price tag on restoring the "soul" of a region after such devastation, but the current charitable resources of about $960 million, as calculated by The Post, will not be sufficient, Powell said.

The line between what the government pays for and what charities will cover is blurred. Even though many Gulf Coast residents are eligible for federal assistance for some housing costs, plenty of other residents will not qualify, say charities, who predict they'll have to pick up the slack.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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