Relief Funds Flow Into CUs,Banks

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WASHINGTON - (09/13/05) -- Hundreds of millions of dollars arebeing distributed to victims of Hurricane Katrina, much of it beingdeposited or cashed at credit unions and banks, in the largestdisaster relief effort ever launched in the United States, federalrelief official said Monday. The Federal Emergency ManagementAgency, which is coordinating the relief effort for the federalgovernment, said it has already distributed $820 million in cash orcash equivalent assistance over the past week--by far the biggestfinancial assistance ever organized by the federal government. Thatincludes $423 million in direct deposits to credit unions andbanks, $375 million in checks, and $20 million in FEMA'sshort-lived stored value card program, according to Barbara Ellis,a spokesman for the disaster relief agency. And the American RedCross has earmarked most of the more than $500 million it hascollected in donations for the hurricane recovery to providefinancial assistance, most of which will flow into depositoryinstitutions over the coming days and weeks. "What we're trying todo right now is provide a bridge for people," Beth Boone, aspokesman for the Red Cross, told The Credit Union Journal. The RedCross will continue to distribute cash assistance "for as long asit's necessary," Boone said. The Red Cross is providing theassistance in the forms of cash vouchers, direct cash or checks,which credit unions around the country have pledged to accept, evenfor non-members. The relief funds are being used immediately tohelp victims from New Orleans and other affected parts ofLouisiana, Mississippi and Alabama who have fled their homes buyfood, shelter, toiletries, and other necessities.

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