Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: Provision of Charitable Assistance Page: 2 of 16
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Highlights of GAO-06-297T, a report to
House Committee on Ways and Means
Subcommittee on Oversight
Why GAO Did This Study
The devastation and dislocation of
individuals experienced throughout
the Gulf Coast in Louisiana,
Mississippi, Alabama, and Texas in
the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and
Rita has raised concern about both
the charitable sector's and the
government's abilities to effectively
respond to such disasters. To
strengthen future disaster response
and recovery operations, the
government needs to understand
what went right and what went
wrong, and to apply these lessons.
The National Response Plan
outlines the roles of federal
agencies and charities in response
to national disasters. Recognizing
the historically large role of
charities in responding to disasters,
the plan included charities as
signatories and gave them
In addition to carrying out the
responsibilities outlined in the
National Response Plan, charities
served as partners to the federal
government in providing both
immediate and long-term
assistance following Hurricanes
Katrina and Rita.
GAO was asked to provide an
overview of lessons learned from
charities' response to previous
disasters as well as preliminary
observations about the role of
charities following the Gulf Coast
hurricanes. As part of our ongoing
work, GAO will continue to analyze
federal and charitable efforts
following the hurricanes.
To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Cynthia
Fagnoni at (202) 512-7215 or
HURRICANES KATRINA AND RITA
Provision of Charitable Assistance
What GAO Found
Following September 11, 2001, GAO reported lessons learned that could
help charities enhance their response to future disasters. These included
easing access to aid for eligible individuals, enhancing coordination
among charities and between charities and the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA), increasing attention to public education,
and planning for future events. GAO also recommended that FEMA
convene a working group of charities to coordinate lessons learned
following September 11. Following the GAO report, seven disaster
response charities partnering with FEMA formed the Coordinated
Assistance Network to improve collaboration and facilitate data sharing.
Following the Gulf Coast hurricanes, charities raised more than $2.5
billion dollars, according to Indiana University's Center of Philanthropy,
with more than half of these funds going to the American Red Cross.
GAO's preliminary work shows that these charities have taken steps to
improve coordination of relief efforts by sharing information through
daily conference calls and electronic databases. Despite these efforts,
charities faced some challenges in coordinating service delivery. For
example, some charities reported that their volunteers needed additional
training to use the databases.
GAO teams that visited the Gulf Coast region in October 2005 observed
that in areas where the American Red Cross did not provide services, the
Salvation Army and smaller organizations-often local churches-were
able to meet many of the charitable needs of hard-to-reach communities.
The American Red Cross's efforts to protect service providers may have
prohibited it from operating in some of the harder-to-reach areas.
Additionally, some concerns were raised about smaller charities' abilities
to provide adequate disaster relief services.
Charitable distribution center in Harrison Coun
United States Government Accountability Office
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: Provision of Charitable Assistance, text, December 13, 2005; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc294569/m1/2/: accessed January 19, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.