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Red Cross CEO Talks Sandy Recovery Efforts

Agency providing grants and individual assistance to those still impacted by storm.

The National American Red Cross estimates that it has served over 16 million meals and snacks in the wake of Hurricane Sandy – 2.2 million on Long Island alone – as well as provided 81,000 stays in shelters – 26,000 in Long Island.

“We’re giving out items like rakes and mops and buckets so people can muck out of their homes, but this storm was followed by a blizzard and so we’re also handing out winter clothes; gloves, hats, scarves,” National American Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern said at a press conference on March 21 at the Red Cross headquarters in Mineola. “We’re going to be here for months to come.”

About 1,600 Nassau residents needed immediate shelter after the storm, with alternative shelters set up for special needs and Orthodox residents.

Each person has now been placed in a “housing opportunity” Nassau Executive Ed Mangano said. “We do still have some residents that are in hotels as they wait for their home to either be elevated or remediated, so there’s still many residents still in the recovery mode trying to get into the rebuilding.”

Mangano added: “the American Red Cross was always ever-present, handing out meals to muck-out kits to help our residents get back into their homes. It is really a tremendous undertaking. We really respect your swift action to assist us in providing very important services for our residents.”

While the last shelter closed in December, the bulk of the efforts by the Red Cross now focuses on two fields: grants and providing individual assistance.

The Red Cross has provided a $1 million grant to Long Island Unmet Needs Roundtable, comprised of nonprofits from across Long Island as well as $1.4 million toward Mineola-based Island Harvest to continue to provide an estimated 20,000 meals per day to those in need through July in addition to $1.2 million already provided.

“Where we’re literally working with the families that are still in hotels, working with families for home repair, mold remediation, helping with the security deposit, first month’s rent, furniture, moving expenses, to get people back on their feet,” McGovern said.

Approximately 74,000 Nassau homeowners have applied for relief from Sandy as well as 4,000 businesses.

To date, the Red Cross estimates that it has spent and made commitments of $145 million on emergency relief and initial recovery efforts, representing half of what the agency received in the first four months after Sandy. The financial figures are broken down as follows: $82.95 million on food and shelter, $30 million on relief items, $19.5 million on housing and community assistance, $6.56 million on individual casework, $3 million on disaster vehicles, $2.2 million on physical and mental health services and $785,000 on interagency coordination.

Mangano said the county was working on ways to harden its infrastructure and restore environmental impacts such as beaches and bulkheading and waterway cleanup efforts for debris deposited during the storm.

“The challenges are in those four areas still; homeowners, business owners, critical infrastructure and our environment and we continue to work towards meeting those needs currently under the state and the Federal government,” he said. “But throughout the process, there’s been acute needs that cannot wait for program and it’s really organizations like the Red Cross...that have provided very, very important services at critical times. The real challenge is to get the federal dollars to the programs necessary before the next hurricane season and as the clock ticks, that becomes more and more challenging.”


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