NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — While President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced the Jersey Shore was “open for business” Tuesday, some residents said they are still in sad shape seven months after Hurricane Sandy – and would like the American Red Cross to step up.
The complaints followed revelations that more than a third of the $303 million it raised in the aftermath of Sandy by the Red Cross remains unspent.
In hard-hit Sea Bright, where every business was wiped out, some still remained shuttered all these months later. Likewise, many homes remained uninhabitable.
“I think you’ll probably find people in this town — they’ll have to walk away from their properties,” Sea Bright Councilman C. Read Murphy told CBS 2’s Alice Gainer. “They just won’t be able to afford to rebuild.”
Murphy, who also works as the Office of Emergency Management coordinator, is in temporary housing himself. He said while the area has made great strides in rebuilding, additional money would go a long way.
Residents in other hard hit shore towns agreed.
“We still need help,” said Pam Ferguson of Neptune. “There’s still a lot of damage done to the area and we need this area to be lifted up.”
“There’s still a lot of people who are homeless and displaced, and going through a lot of trouble and heartache,” added Ken Napalo of Brick Town.
The American Red Cross raised $303 million to help the victims of the storm. To date, the agency has only spent about $192 million — just under two thirds of the total.
Some disaster relief experts say that’s smart planning. But others question whether the Red Cross, an organization best known for rushing into disasters to distribute food and get people into shelter, should have acted with more urgency in the weeks after the storm and left long-haul recovery tasks to someone else.
“There were not enough services and people were struggling more than they needed to struggle, considering all the resources that had been donated,” Ben Smilowitz with the nonprofit Disaster Accountability Project told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell. “The Red Cross brands itself as an organization that provides mass care or immediate relief.”
“The Red Cross has never been a recovery operation. Their responsibility has always been mass care,” Smilowitz added. “Stick with what you’re good at.”