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Red Cross banking fire donations "for future emergencies"

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No one I know donated money for the Red Cross to keep in its bank accounts.

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The Red Cross has been accused of failing to support the needs of families affected by bushfires, with some claiming they have been waiting months for help.

Generous Australians donated more than $95 million to the Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund but The Daily Telegraph can reveal less than a third of the money has been committed to fire victims.

There are also no guarantees that the remaining funds donated will be handed out this summer.

“Australians have generously donated more than $95 million dollars to Red Cross’ Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund,” a spokeswoman from the charity said.

“Right now we’ve committed $30 million to help people meet their immediate needs.

“This includes initial $10,000 emergency grants for everyone across Australia whose homes have been destroyed in bushfires since July 2019.

“Outside of the $30 million already committed to immediate financial relief, the funds will also go to bereavements grants of $20K each, as well as an initial three-year recovery program.”

The spokeswoman said some of the funds would be saved to spend towards disasters in the future to “continue to ensure our emergency teams are resourced and ready for wherever they’re needed”.

The Daily Telegraph can confirm just over 500 cash assistance grants have been approved by the charity since January 6.

The total number of homes destroyed has exceeded 2000.

Nambucca mayor Rhonda Hoban has slammed the lack of assistance provided to people in her region.

“The money may have been committed but it’s not on the ground,” Ms Hoban said.

“The real fire damage occurred on November 8 so it’s been more than two months and we have no running water, no toilets.

“One lady told me this morning that she’d give anything to just clean her teeth.”

Ms Hoban said without any internet reception it was difficult for locals to access these grants. She also warned of growing mental health issues in the community.

“Despite all the media releases saying mental health assistance is available to people who are suffering they don’t have telephone access — we have had reports of three attempted suicides,” she said.

“People suffering these issues aren’t going to go into town and find a phone to call the mental health helpline.”

Australian Charities and Not For Profit Commission boss Gary Johns said the country was in phase two of recovery and the charities were in discussions about how to spend the money collected.

“It does seem strange that people have had to wait for basics from last October,” he said.