HONOLULU (KHON2) — With millions in donations and billions in federal money slated for Maui fire recovery, where is all that money going?
Always Investigating has been tracking the money from all kinds of state, federal and private sources. One of the bigger donor-based funds is the American Red Cross. Now, we have a look at how they’re divvying up tens of millions of your donated dollars.
Within days of the Aug. 8 fires on Maui, the generosity of people here in Hawaii and beyond was immense, especially to high-profile agencies like the American Red Cross.
“We’ve seen an influx of about $65.8 million from all over the world,” said Matthew Wells, regional communications director for American Red Cross, Pacific Islands Region. “And it’s been incredible because really locally has been leading that donation or charge. It’s been fantastic to see.”
With so much money, and so much need, Always Investigating wanted to know where is it all going. And how much has been spent?
“About one-third of that is going to immediate financial assistance,” Wells said. “We also have one-third of that bookmarked to go for long-term financial assistance and for extended projects to get people transitioned out of our non-congregate shelters, and into more stabilized housing.”
He says the final one-third is logistics like warehousing, infrastructure, even flights and lodging volunteers, also local hiring, overhead and communications.
The shelter and housing operation has been a huge and heavy lift for both the agencies and the thousands of survivors struggling through an evolving temporary housing maze.
“This is going to take a lot of players to make sure that we get people back on their feet,” American Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern said during a visit to Maui last week. “And you heard about a mosaic of different types of housing. We will provide case management and get people into housing as it becomes available.”
As for the immediate financial assistance portion, we wanted to know who is getting cash in hand, and how much.
“About $11.3 million so far has been gone into financial assistance,” Wells said. “And we’re looking at that from the perspective of: What is it that people need right now? It could be a check that they get, it could be a card that they get, it could be services and goods that they get.”
KHON2 asked, are there still any qualification issues out there now? What does the Red Cross want to say to people who think there’s been a disconnect for them?
“What we have set up is at each one of the non-congregate shelters, there is a Red Cross table with representatives on hand,” Wells said.
He suggested “speaking to somebody in person, and essentially being your own advocate and making sure that you have the answers that you need. We’re going to work with you to get those.”
The Red Cross has logged more than 2,700 households in some stage of assistance or on their radar.
“We’re going through that list, if we haven’t gotten to everybody yet, we will,” Wells said.
KHON2 asked, does the Red Cross have an internal deadline for that?
“An internal deadline is really yesterday,” Wells said. We’re working to make sure that this is done as soon as possible.”
Another big spend from the budget will be on local hires that are taking on the next phase of recovery, after 400 initial volunteers amassed on Maui at the outset.
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“We have hired over 100 people so far,” Wells said. “These are going to be employees that stick with us for the next several months, several years, depending on what it takes. And we have anywhere from 40 to 70 more positions that we’re looking to hire for.”