Red Cross halts appeals for disaster donations

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The American Red Cross is halting its appeals for donations to a fund created to help victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, its interim chief executive officer said Tuesday.

The organization was criticized Monday when it acknowledged that it had made plans for at least $105 million of Liberty Fund donations to go to broad-based activities instead, including a blood reserve program, outreach efforts and a telecommunications upgrade.

Contributions received after today will be deposited in the charity’s Disaster Relief Fund, a general account servicing all kinds of emergencies, unless donors specify the money is for the Liberty Fund, said Harold Decker, the organization’s interim leader.

The Liberty Fund held $547 million in pledges as of Monday, he said.

Liberty Fund money also will continue to be held separately from other funds, Decker said, and will be spent on aid to victims’ families and other relief efforts arising from the attacks.

"That is the way the fund was set up. That is what donors expect," he told reporters.

One factor in the decision is that fund-raising for the Liberty Fund apparently has contributed to a drop in its Disaster Relief Fund, which held $26 million as of Sept. 30, said chief financial officer Jack Campbell. The fund’s target is about $57 million, he said.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Red Cross has spent more than $140 million on related disaster relief.

Of that amount, nearly $44 million has been distributed to more than 2,200 families to help cover housing, child care, food and other expenses for about three months. About $67 million was spent on immediate disaster relief needs.

More than $11.5 million has been spent on blood donor programs, $14.7 million on nationwide community outreach and $2.5 million on indirect support costs such as fuel for emergency response vehicles and maintaining a toll-free information hotline.

The Red Cross expects to spend about $300 million over the next year on these efforts. The remaining funds, more than $200 million, will be held and used for future needs arising from the attacks and their aftermath, including subsequent terrorist assaults, Campbell said.

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