Relief Agencies Brace for Hurricane Season

A decline in donations has the Salvation Army scrambling to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season, the Associated Press reports.

According to Salvation Army national spokesman Maj. George Hood, the relief organization will continue to provide basics such as food, water, and shelter in the aftermath of a major storm, but it will be hard pressed to provide more costly aid, such as the $10,000 cash assistance grants given to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. While in the past the Salvation Army has been able to raise between $50 million and $75 million for a single hurricane relief effort, it raised only $13 million last year for the entire hurricane season. "The problem is the economy," said Hood, who added that even last year the organization was unable to offer sustained recovery assistance in the aftermath of hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that four to seven hurricanes will form in the Atlantic during the 2009 hurricane season, which began June 1, with up to three of them becoming major storms.

Other leading disaster-relief agencies say they are in solid financial shape. The American Red Cross announced that, despite the tough economy, it had raised more than $90 million of a $100 million campaign and is prepared to provide strong and consistent disaster relief. And Catholic Charities USA spokesman Roger Conner said that his organization expects to be able to provide the same level of disaster relief as in years past.

Still, the diminished resources of one of the nation's largest disaster relief organizations could mean delays for families and communities affected by a major storm. "Federal assistance does not completely replace everything you've lost in a disaster — it only helps you get back on your feet," said Lea Stokes, deputy director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. "The majority of families who are disaster survivors are going to rely on the nonprofit organizations, such as the Salvation Army, to help them rebuild their lives."

Sheila Byrd. "Donation Slump Could Hinder Disaster Assistance." Associated Press 07/22/2009.