Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: Provision of Charitable Assistance Page: 3 of 16
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Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
I am pleased to be here today to discuss the role of charitable services in
response to recent Gulf Coast hurricanes. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
caused massive destruction and large-scale disruption of lives in Alabama,
Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. In response to this destruction, we have
witnessed heroic efforts by public, private, and nonprofit organizations
and volunteers. My testimony today will present some of our observations
regarding the performance of charities in response to these hurricanes.
These natural disasters have placed strengthening the nation's emergency
response efforts at the top of the national agenda. Comptroller General
Walker has stated that GAO will provide support to Congress through
analysis and evaluation of coordination efforts among federal agencies,
and between federal agencies and the state, local, private, and nonprofit
sectors. GAO has conducted several previous reviews of federal actions
following national disasters, including Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the
terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, that will be helpful in evaluating
the nation's response to recent hurricanes. We plan to conduct all Katrina-
related work under the Comptroller General's authority since it is an issue
of interest to the entire Congress and numerous committees in both
Charities have addressed many short- and long-term needs of the victims
of recent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region. Their efforts represent the
largest disaster response effort in United States history by charitable
organizations. As charities collect donations to address these needs,
questions have been raised about how the money will be used and how
charitable relief efforts will be coordinated. This testimony will discuss
progress to date in incorporating lessons learned from our review of
charitable coordination following September 11, and preliminary
observations about the coordination of charities after the recent
hurricanes. This testimony is based upon published GAO reports; ongoing
work; relevant interviews with federal, state, and local government
officials in states affected by the hurricanes; interviews with charitable
officials and national experts; and data on total hurricane-related
donations to charities from Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy.
In summary, we learned from our work following the September 11
attacks that charities could take steps to make it easier for survivors of
disasters to get the help they need, improve coordination among charities
and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), better educate
the public about charities' roles in disaster recovery, and plan for
responding to future disasters. Following our report, seven charities
formed a network to share information electronically about aid recipients
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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/m1/3/: accessed January 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.