Red Cross Faces Criticism About Hurricane Harvey Relief Distribution

(CBS News) — The Red Cross is defending the way it’s spending the $429 million raised to help victims of Hurricane Harvey. Texas officials worry some people in need were neglected. And this isn’t the first time the Red Cross has faced criticism after a major disaster. One crisis expert says the organization should be better equipped to respond to natural disasters after decades of experience.

The Red Cross told CBS News it spends an average of $360 million per year to help disaster victims. It also says more people have stayed in their shelters overnight this year than in the past five years combined.

After Hurricane Harvey dumped unprecedented flooding on parts of Texas in August, the Red Cross rolled out a new online system to help victims. Apply online or on your phone for relief funds, and the Red Cross would let you know via text or email if you qualified for a $400 aid payment, reports CBS News’ Omar Villafranca.

But some residents of a neighborhood that received nearly three feet of water during the storm are saying they’re not getting the help they need.

“I thought somebody would help. We don’t need a lot. And I got nothing,” Jackie Bailey said.

Twenty-nine inches of water flooded Bailey’s Houston-area home during the hurricane. When her daughter Geneva helped her apply for $400 in assistance from the Red Cross, she found out they were denied over text message.

While some may say it’s only $400, Bailey says it’s “the thought” that matters.

“You know, the thought that people are going to help you, but there’s no help,” Bailey said.

Earlier this month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expressed his own worries over Red Cross funds raised to help Harvey victims.

Abbott told reporters he was concerned Harvey relief was not getting into the hands of the people who need it. The governor’s office confirmed to CBS News that they’ve met with Red Cross officials as part of an ongoing process to make sure Texans are getting the help they deserve.

During an August interview on “CBS This Morning” Red Cross CEO and president Gail McGovern defended the organization’s spending and distribution of resources.

Read more, and see video and photos, here.