13 Investigates: How have charities spent Harvey recovery money?

Saturday, August 25, 2018
How have charities spent Harvey recovery money?
How have charities spent Harvey recovery money?

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- After the floods from Harvey receded, donations flooded local and national charities. Hundreds of millions of dollars were donated to help victims like Monte Mittag recover.

We met Mittag on the steps of her newly rebuilt home in northeast Houston.

"It's just like, I don't know what I did to deserve this," Mittag said.

A year from Harvey, this is what anyone who donated to any Harvey effort wants to see. Money being spent to put victims back in their homes to restart their lives.

She never would've been this close to move-in without the efforts of SBP, a Louisiana-based charity with a goal of rebuilding 100 Harvey damaged homes by the end of 2018.

Colby Williams is an AmeriCorps member working with SBP. The group says it spends about $35,000 per home - the Red Cross and Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund have both donated to SBP. And the money for the first 100 rebuilt homes was donated by JJ Watt after he raised more than $37 million.

SBP was one of four recipients from the Watt fund. In the first year, Watt distributed 81 percent of the $37 million he raised.

He says he didn't spend any money administering the fund at all.

ABC13 INVESTIGATES: Gov't relief money not coming fast enough

That is the same impressive statistic for the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund organized by the city of Houston and Harris County.

It has distributed 97 percent of the $114 million it raised and didn't spend anything administering it.

The administration was donated by the Greater Houston Community Foundation. It allows every dollar of the Harvey relief fund to help victims. The largest single need was temporary housing and home repair.

Cesar Carrera lost virtually everything in his home. A $2,000 long-term recovery grant from the Red Cross helped pay some bills.

He is one of an expected 20,000 recipients for the grant.

The Red Cross says it spends 9 percent on administrative costs and has so far spent 75 percent of the $519 million donated for Harvey relief - split between immediate relief and long-term recovery.

The Red Cross boasts that it supported more than 414,000 overnight shelter stays with another 4.5 million meals and snacks served during the height of the storm. Immediate financial assistance was provided to 575,000 households, according to Red Cross data.

Other charities, like the Houston Food Bank, saw major increases in distribution after the storm. For the last fiscal year (ending June 2018) the food bank saw a 60 percent increase in food and supply distribution from the previous year according to its data.

Catholic Charities helped nearly 19,000 people over 246 zip codes, it said. Nearly 6,000 homes were helped.

What is missing in this discussion is government funds. These three charities will spend nearly $700 million. It's an incredible amount but pales in comparison to the billions the city, state and county have been given by Congress. A year out - that money is largely unspent.

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