NEW YORK -- Even with Congress earmarking billions of federal dollars for Hurricane Katrina relief, private charities are urging donors to keep on giving, contending that their field operations remain crucial in meeting emergency needs and ensuring long-term aid to the worst-off victims.
Less than two weeks after the storm hit the Gulf Coast, private gifts have soared to nearly $700 million, a pace exceeding the response to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The American Red Cross alone had received $503 million in gifts and pledges as of yesterday, nearly equaling the $534 million collected for its Liberty Fund over two months following the attacks.
Red Cross spokeswoman Sheila Graham said the organization hopes the gifts will keep pouring in; it expects to need more than $1 billion to provide emergency relief over the coming weeks for thousands of evacuees who are scattered among 675 of its shelters in 23 states.
Though Congress, after swift appropriations votes Thursday, has allocated $62 billion for relief efforts, private charities say that money will not be distributed quickly enough to meet current emergencies and may not meet all long-term needs.
''That money has been approved, but we're spending money right now," said Ross Fraser of America's Second Harvest, which has raised nearly $12 million and delivered more than 16 million tons of food.
''We've never seen anything of this magnitude; all help from all sectors is going to be needed," said Shelley Borysiewicz of Catholic Charities USA, which has raised $7 million. ''We don't want people to lose sight of the fact that this is going to take years of recovery, and we're going to be there to help the people who fall through the cracks."
In addition to the Red Cross, major recipients of donations include the Salvation Army, which has received $65 million, and the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund set up by former presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, which has collected more than $80 million. Dozens of other groups also are raising funds, including religious organizations of virtually every faith, special-interest groups, and loose alliances of celebrities who are staging concerts and other events.
Many corporations have pitched in with large gifts;
Major Dalton Cunningham, head of the Salvation Army for Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, said the charity sees no quick drop-off in demand for its emergency services.