Charities defend fires donations roll-out
Charities have defended their roll-out of bushfire donations amid accusations from politicians they have been holding on to millions of dollars.
NSW’s emergency services minister David Elliott has told charities to “pull their fingers out” and ensure money donated for bushfire victims is delivered immediately.
But they say the process takes time.
Australian Red Cross director Noel Clement said the charity is giving out $1 million a day, and will increase that figure, but needs to ensure the rest of the $115 million it has raised so far goes to the right places over the long term.
“We’re not holding back … it’s significant money we need to make decisions on,” Clement told AAP.
The charity has given out $8 million of a planned initial allocation of $30 million which includes around 3000 grants of between $2000 and $10,000 for people who have lost their homes and $20,000 to families who have lost loved ones.
Elliott on Thursday backed his frontbench colleague Andrew Constance who said he was “gutted” that only a third of the money donated to the Red Cross was being distributed swiftly.
“My message to the charities is ‘Pull your finger out’. This is not a time for us to delay – particularly while people are hurting so much,” Elliott said.
Constance has been helping people in his southern NSW seat of Bega in the blazes which have killed 24 people and razed more than 2000 homes across the state.
“People have given around Australia to the Red Cross so that it gets in the hands of people who need it most,” he told reporters in Batemans Bay.
“They can’t just sit there and expect Australians to keep donating to them and hold onto the money. We can’t have a drip-feed.”
But Clement said the money can’t all be used immediately when decisions are yet to be made on rebuilding and other recovery measures which will take years.
The charity has already assigned $5million for its teams to assist with all disasters, $30m in grants, $1m for the bereaved and $18m for recovery over the next three years.
“There’s a whole range of options for the rest – rebuilding, mental health, we want to make sure the balance of that remaining $60m will be used to its best effect,” he said.
“We’re looking at other needs for the medium to long term, so it goes out to people as they need support.”
Clement continues that before the initial $30 has been fully distributed, the charity will announce the next phase of its support.
The St Vincent de Paul Society said it had distributed more than $2.4 million of $12.5 million collected and it planned to speed up the response.
“Vinnies will not, and has never, kept funds from disaster appeals for any other work or cause,” the charity said in a statement,” he said. “The process of assessing people and establishing their need does take some time.”
The Salvation Army said it’s been responding to the crisis for the past four months.
“To date, we have distributed $8.4m (80 per cent) of the $11m that has been received in funds,” it said in a statement. “Over $42m has been pledged to The Salvation Army since the Disaster Appeal was launched on 9 November 2019.”