Getting answers about Harvey from Red Cross in Washington, DC

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter

WASHINGTON - Red Cross confusion after Hurricane Harvey is making headlines across the Houston area and across the country.

Social media is only fueling the firestorm, and KPRC2 is getting the answers.

Channel 2 Investigates' Bill Spencer flew to Washington, D.C., to track down Red Cross leaders on the national level.

  • Gail McGovern, Red Cross president and CEO, earns $502,300 per year
  • Brian Rhoa, chief financial officer, earns $427,800 per year
  • Cliff holtz, chief operating officer, earns $388,300 per year
  • Jennifer Hawkins, corporate secretary and chief of staff, earns $194,850 per year

The tumultuous storm has passed, but the nightmare of cleaning up and rebuilding after a disastrous flooding event is just now beginning for the victims of Harvey.

"Well, I don't think it's fair," Angela Thompson said.

READ: Red Cross addresses concerns from Harvey victims

Her parents lost everything after 4 feet of water swamped their home, but when they applied for Red Cross help in the form of a $400 immediate aid program, they were denied.

"Why do my parents deserve this? My father's a veteran, he served this country," Thompson said.

At Red Cross headquarters, we spoke with chief public affairs officer Suzy DeFrancis to get answers on where $300 million in Harvey donation money is going.

Bill Spencer: The simple fact is a lot of people in Houston are asking, 'Where is the Red Cross putting all this money?' Tell me, where is the money going right now?
Suzy Defrancis: I know you must have seen photos of the many shelters we've opened, that we've staffed and set up cots and set up blankets and we've brought meals.

Another huge issue is the program the Red Cross set up to give flood victims $400 in immediate relief money. It launched this past Sunday. One day later, the whole system crashed.

Spencer: What is going on with that $400 program? It crashed on Monday. It's now Thursday. People can't even log on to it.
DeFrancis: And we're working around the clock with our vendors to make sure that when we turn the program back on, that it won't crash again.
Spencer: Can you give me a firm date?
DeFrancis: I wish I could. I want to have that date. I think it will be soon, but I can't tell you the exact date. And I don't want to set a false promise.

Finally we asked her what does the president and CEO of the Red Cross have to say about the way the Red Cross is handling Hurricane Harvey survivors.

Spencer: Let me ask you why can't we talk directly to the CEO Gail McGovern about what is going on with the Red Cross during this crisis?
DeFrancis: Gail has been in Houston two different times. She is handling the situation in Florida. She is on travel.

The watchdog group Charity Watch, which studies the work of charitable organizations, gave the Red Cross a B-plus rating.

“Think of it this way: If you give $100 to the RC, in the most recent fiscal year, they have $70 left over to dedicate to their programs,” said Daniel Borochoff, president of Charity Watch.

On Friday, KPRC2 was again blocked by the Red Cross from speaking to any of the charity's top officers, a group of people earning big salaries in the business of disaster relief.

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