When disaster strikes, people see their world change in an instant. Whether the emergency situation is a fire in someone’s home or a flood impacting an entire community, the people affected have the same questions.
- We can’t live in our home. Where will we stay?
- How will we eat?
- Our clothes are gone. What will we wear?
Those affected need answers quickly, and the American Red Cross is there.
Every eight minutes in this country, the Red Cross responds to a disaster, providing food, shelter and comfort. In some situations, we also provide direct financial support to people who need food, clothing, or help in securing a place to stay. The Red Cross is there to meet emergency needs for people who may not have anywhere else to turn for help.
To improve Red Cross services and efficiency, the qualifications and process for people receiving disaster financial assistance were recently simplified to center around three core questions – is the family home livable, is there a place for them to stay, and how many people are included in the family.
In as little as 30 minutes, a Red Cross caseworker can determine a family’s needs and provide them with a prepaid card that can be used at all merchants that accept MasterCard. The new system has several benefits for those needing help and is more effective in ensuring a family’s safety and comfort in the immediate hours following a disaster such as a home fire; whereas the previous system involved more questions from caseworkers, more paperwork and assistance only for specific categories.
“After someone experiences a house fire, the last thing they need to do is fill out a lot of forms and answer dozens of questions,” said Corey Eide, director, Disaster Recovery for the Red Cross. “These recent improvements enable our volunteers to quickly identify a family’s needs and provide a meaningful amount of assistance. People can use this assistance to buy food for their children or get a couple of nights stay in a hotel while they figure out what’s next. And they can be confident that a caseworker will follow up with them in 72 hours to see how they’re doing and offer local partner and government referrals.”
Another benefit of the redesigned program is consistency. The current system ensures people receive assistance on a prepaid MasterCard, where previously some of the assistance was provided on vouchers that could only be used at a select number of merchants. The new program ensures that the people who turn to the Red Cross for help receive consistent and standard help for similar events regardless of where they live.
HELPING DISASTER VICTIMS IN 2015
In addition to responding to numerous home fires in 2015, Red Cross disaster workers answered the call to help during more than 170 larger disaster operations across the country.
During 2015, Red Crossers have provided casework support to more than 278,000 people, and given financial assistance to more than 81,000 households (data as of December 1st).
On average, the Red Cross standard program provides about $600 per family. This financial assistance can help with food, shelter, clothing, health services, repairs to their home or repairing or replacing appliances.
For example, this assistance could include $50 per person if they can return home within a day or two; $125 per person if they cannot go home or there will be a significant delay; lodging assistance appropriate to the local market rate; up to $500 per person for health and mental health assistance, and as much as $300 to meet additional recovery needs when there is a significant gap in recovery. In extreme cases, the Red Cross can provide further financial assistance.
Red Cross caseworkers also provide one-on-one support for the disaster victim, refer them to other community partners who can help, help them plan their recovery and advocate for them with an insurance company.
For more information on Red Cross disaster relief and the help provided to hundreds of thousands of people every year, visit redcross.org.
Footnote: During fiscal year 2015 (July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015) the Red Cross opened approximately 76,300 cases providing financial assistance to households effected by local disasters, the vast majority of these were home fires.