Red Cross launches new disaster assistance website after crash leaves Harvey victims frustrated

By Cathy Hernandez - Reporter , Lea Wilson - Digital News Editor , Andy Cerota - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - For 10 days, an apology has appeared on the Red Cross website after it crashed on Sept. 11. Many in need of assistance have questioned if they’d get help at all.

“We understand this has been frustrating and we apologize for the problems these issues have caused,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said

The Red Cross said the overwhelming need for help after Hurricane Harvey was a challenge for the organization and its technology.

“This unprecedented demand challenged our infrastructure and caused us to temporarily suspend service,” the agency said in a written statement.

LINK: New Red Cross disaster assistance website for Harvey victims

The organization launched a new website Thursday morning and reopened registrations. The Red Cross said it has been working with its IT department to make the process as smooth as possible.

The organization will give qualified families $400. It said it has already distributed $45 million in financial assistance to more than 100,000 households that needed immediate help.

Turner said it's time for the Red Cross to step up.

"Right now when people are in a very difficult situation, they're relying on what you tell them. And if you say you're going to do a,b,c or d you better do a, b, c or d or you better get out front very quickly and tell people why you can't do a, b, c or d," he said.

The Red Cross assured that new website will work.

If you applied for aid before the website crashed, you do not need to do it again. The Red Cross said is processing those applications.

The new website will be open through Oct. 10.

"When we opened it later, the water just came pouring out,” said Terri Bamburger as she opened her refrigerator in her Meyerland home. "Moved in in 2003. I had dogs that went swimming in the water. That water was cold. I had to get in it."

This was her home’s third flood.

Bamburger can't count the number of times she has checked the Red Cross website for assistance.

"Come back, come back, doesn't work ... be up the 21st. I went on at midnight just for the heck of it. But at 8 this morning, it was there. But at the same time, you fill it out ... you have to be able to get text messages. And we'll get back to you for the next part. So, I'm still waiting," Bamburger said.

The Red Cross said it is now a two-step process designed to make sure the money gets to flood victims.

"We changed the process and we did that intentionally to make it a two-step process so that people today can go on the site and get registered. There will then be a verification process. Then about 24 hours, they'll get an email letting them know if they are approved or declined," Gulf Coast Red Cross CEO David Brady said.

Bamburger waited for her response as the bills pile up with the trash at the curb.

"Well, I don't know why they would put nay on this mess. $400 isn't a lot when you look at everything. But every little bit helps," Bamburger said.

The Red Cross said anyone without access to the internet can apply by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. However, the organization asked for patience.

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