State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is calling for an explanation from relief organizations, including the American Red Cross, about the slow pace of handing out donations collected after Hurricane Sandy. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.
According to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, 89 charities raised a total of $575 million for Hurricane Sandy relief. Residents in the Breezy Point section of Queens, however, say they have not seen much of that money.
"Quite frankly, no, we haven't seen it to the degree we expected," said Denise Lopresti-Neibel of the Breezy Point Cooperative.
Breezy Point was one of the hardest-hit areas in New York City, where a devastating fire followed the flooding there, leaving behind stone foundations where houses once stood.
"I think the pictures speak for themselves. We have 135 homes in back of us that are not rebuilt yet. These families are not back in their homes," said Lopresti-Neibel.
In a new report, Schneiderman says that as of April, nearly half the money raised had not been spent.
"The charities themselves acknowledged to us, and this is all in the report, that 42 percent of the money they raised still hadn't been spent five months after the storm," said Schneiderman.
"Everybody needs to be held accountable. We are not talking about private money. We are talking about donations that were given by people all across the country to help the folks in southern Queens and Rockaway and other storm-affected areas," said Queens Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder.
Five organizations account for roughly 80 percent of the funds raised.
In a statement, the American Red Cross, which raised the most money for Sandy relief, says, "The Red Cross has received $304 million for our Sandy emergency relief and recovery. As of June 11, we had already spent or committed $225 million of that money."
Schneiderman says this is only an interim report, so the investigation will continue.
"The New York State attorney general's office is the regulator of charities in the state of New York. The statutes give us that authority," Schneiderman said. "We have the ability to get any and all information from charities to compel them to produce information. Sanctions can range from monetary penalties to actually shutting organizations down."
For now, the strategy seems to be to go public with the information, in order to compel charities to be more forthcoming about about how those funds were spent.