Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: Provision of Charitable Assistance Page: 4 of 16
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and services provided, improve coordination, and ease access to aid. The
group worked in partnership with FEMA to develop a database to share
information between agencies. In a little more than 3 months, charities
have raised more than $2.5 billion to assist in hurricane relief and recovery
efforts. In addition, charities have taken other steps to improve
coordination following the Gulf Coast hurricanes. Charities shared
information through meetings at the American Red Cross headquarters,
daily conference calls, and electronic databases that allowed multiple
organizations to access information about services provided to hurricane
victims. Despite these efforts, some charities raised concerns about the
usefulness of the conference calls and electronic databases for sharing
information. For example, some charities said that daily conference calls
after Katrina included too many organizations and did not provide the
information they needed. There were also problems with providing
charitable services to victims in some hard-to-reach areas. GAO teams in
the field reported that the American Red Cross did not provide relief in
certain areas because of safety policies. In areas where the American Red
Cross did not operate, GAO teams observed that other charities, such as
the Salvation Army and smaller charities-often local churches-provided
relief services. Although smaller organizations provided needed charitable
services in the Gulf Coast region, some concerns have been raised about
their ability to provide adequate services to victims. We will be reviewing
this issue in more detail over the next several months. GAO is currently
engaged in ongoing work on the coordination of charitable efforts in
response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and will further examine how
effectively charities coordinated their responses to recent hurricanes.
Charities are organizations established to serve broad public purposes,
such as the needs of the poor or distressed and other social welfare issues.
The Internal Revenue Service reported that for 2002, 501(c)(3)
organizations, which include charities, had total assets of over $1.7 trillion.
In 2004, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognized 820,000 charities,
accounting for about 90 percent of 501(c)(3) organizations.' Charities can
include organizations with missions such as helping the poor, advancing
religion, educating the public, or providing disaster relief services.
Although the federal government indirectly subsidizes charities through
their tax-exempt status and by allowing individuals to deduct charitable
contributions from their income taxes, the federal government has a fairly
1 This estimate based on data from the IRS, with modifications by the National Center for
Charitable Statistics (NCCS) at the Urban Institute. NCSS excluded foreign and
governmental organizations from the data.
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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/m1/4/: accessed November 13, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.