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New York AG Report Finds 42 Percent Of Sandy Donations Unspent

About $575 Million Donated To Sandy Relief Effort After Storm
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman holds a press conference in Breezy Point, Queens on charities that collected money for superstorm Sandy relief, July 17, 2013. (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman holds a press conference in Breezy Point, Queens on charities that collected money for superstorm Sandy relief, July 17, 2013. (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

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Superstorm Sandy

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Hearts and wallets opened up to Sandy victims in the weeks after the superstorm.

But as WCBS 880′s Monica Miller reported, New York’s attorney general is asking some of the charities that raised hundreds of millions of dollars where the money is.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday in the flood- and fire-ravaged Breezy Point section of Queens, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman questioned whether aid money has been spent urgently enough in the nearly nine months since the storm.

Some 42 percent of about $575 million in donations were unspent as of early April, according to an interim report Schneiderman’s office released Wednesday.

“We are pursuing this and we will try to get every dollar possible,” Schneiderman said.

He said organizations like the American Red Cross, the largest fundraiser, were unclear in the application process.

“Some stated to us after the fact that funds contributed by donors would be used only if the donors designated it for Sandy relief, but didn’t communicate this to the donors,” said Schneiderman.

LINK: Read The Full Report (pdf)

Schneiderman said his office is also interested in finding out how much money raised for Sandy relief actually went to organizational overhead or “non-Sandy” purposes.

In the interim report, the attorney general’s office said that charities and relief organizations that responded to a spring survey said about $238 million remained unspent as of early April.

“We understand that not every dollar can be spent right away, and some causes are best addressed over the long term,” Schneiderman said.

The AG’s report shows 89 charities raised more than a half a billion dollars for Sandy relief.

Francis Breezy Point home has been demolished and has asked for help from different charities with no luck.

“We’re really desperate. I have no home, I can’t stand living like this,” she told Miller.

More current statistics on the total amount of aid spending were not immediately available Wednesday, but the largest Sandy fundraiser, the American Red Cross, said that as of June 11 it had spent or committed about $225 million of the $304 million in donations dedicated to Sandy relief.

In its report, Schneiderman’s office said that of the 89 organizations it identified as raising funds for Sandy victims or the rebuilding effort, 17 acknowledged that at least some of the money they raised in the storm’s aftermath would be used on charitable endeavors not directly linked to Sandy.

The Red Cross said all donations made to the organization for a month after the storm were automatically dedicated to the Sandy relief effort. Donations pledged online or by phone after Nov. 26, or by text after Dec. 31, went into the organization’s general disaster relief fund unless donors specifically asked that their money be restricted to the storm response.

“We believe that we are spending those donations carefully and wisely – and in line with the intent of our donors,” Red Cross spokesman Roger Lowe said in an email. He said the organization welcomed the attorney general’s interest in the issue and shared his goal of being transparent with donors.

Any complaints concerning charitable activities relating to Sandy should be sent to the Charities Bureau’s dedicated Sandy email address, sandyresponse@ag.ny.gov.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)