Facing scathing criticism from members of Congress in a hearing on Tuesday, American Red Cross president Bernadine Healy defended her organization's decision to withhold more than $200 million in donations intended for the families of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the New York Times reports.
Members of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation of the House Committee on Energy criticized the relief agency's plan to set aside some $264 million of the $564 million it has raised since September 11 to bolster its strategic blood reserve and create an emergency fund for use in the event of future terrorist attacks.
Dr. Healy, who has announced her intention to step down from her position at the end of the year, responded to the criticism by asserting that Americans understood that their donations to the organization's Liberty Fund might be put to other uses in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
"I don't know why they didn't get it," Healy said of House members who insisted that they and their constituents had been misled. "I think they went in with their own spin."
In a related hearing before the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, Sara E. Melendez, president and CEO of Independent Sector, testified that a new level of public-private collaboration was needed to ensure that money going to those affected by the terrorist attacks protects the integrity of both the families and the donors. But Melendez cautioned that while such coordination should be organized as quickly as possible, charities need more time to make informed decisions about the how to proceed with their relief efforts.