Red Cross has unfairly denied aid to 1,000 victims of Hurricane Sandy, a watchdog group charges
Complaint to the New York State attorney general’s office calls it ‘gross mismanagement’ of aid funds.
By Kenneth Lovett / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Tuesday, July 16, 2013
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Obama and Red Cross officials talk about Sandy relief efforts, which one watchdog group said had unfairly denied aid to about 1,000 victims.
Many of the desperate New Yorkers were originally assured by the Red Cross that they qualified for grants of up to $10,000 through a program to help them rebuild or recover, the complaint says. Hundreds more were encouraged to apply for aid.
But after the Red Cross sent checks to some households, the charity on May 6 suddenly narrowed the eligibility requirements, leaving many in the lurch, the complaint charges.
The complaint was filed last week with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s charities bureau by the Disaster Accountability Project, a Maryland-based charity watchdog group.
“A relief organization can’t get lower than dangling hope in front of people that lost everything . . . and then dropping them like a ton of bricks,” group Executive Director Ben Smilowitz said.
“We’re calling on the Red Cross to do the right thing.”
He said 151 Sandy victims signed the complaint.
One was Andrea Dunetz, 63 of Brooklyn, who said she was flooded out of her rent stablized apartment. After meeting with the Red Cross in February, she said she was told she’d qualify for money to cover furniture and the first month’s rent on a new place.
But after the rule change, she was alerted by phone no such money was coming and was urged to call the Salvation Army.
“It’s the creepiest thing I ever went through,” Dunetz told the Daily News. “I was victimized by the storm, victimized by a crappy landlord and victimized by the freakin’ Red Cross.”
A Red Cross rep denied there has been a change in eligibility requirements and accused the watchdog group of “raising false hopes for people who already have suffered enough.”
A Schneiderman aide only confirmed receiving the complaint.
Schneiderman Wednesday is expected to issue a report detailing problems with charitable efforts following Sandy. His office, sources said, is sending out letters to 50 charitable organizations, including the Red Cross and Salvation Army — asking for a more detailed accounting on what has been spent post Sandy and, in many cases, why more hasn’t gone out the door