Red Cross has added to its ongoing relief efforts in fire affected communities -- where some 2,000 volunteers and staff have been providing support this summer – by doubling its emergency cash grant to $10,000 for people who have lost their homes, and through a new bereavement payment to meet the immediate needs of the families of those who have tragically lost their lives.
Funds have already started to be distributed. Some 474 cash grants have been approved since last week, helping people meet their immediate needs. In the coming days, Red Cross will also contact the families of those deceased to provide an initial $20,000 bereavement payment to meet their unmet needs during this difficult time, including funeral and related expenses.
“Because of the incredible generosity of the Australian community and beyond, we are able to provide more emergency funds to people whose lives have been devastated by these bushfires,” Australian Red Cross Chief Executive Officer Judy Slatyer said. “We hope it will go a bit further in helping them through this extremely difficult time and begin what will be a long recovery process. Further assistance measures will be developed and announced as needs become clearer.”
Australians and people all over the world have responded to the bushfires with incredible generosity, donating more than $95 million to Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery. Red Cross will this week appoint external advisors to its Fund Advisory Panel, which oversees the allocation and distribution of funds. Up to four external experts will provide independent advice on the best use of funds to meet immediate needs and to support the long term recovery of impacted communities. This advice will inform Red Cross decisions on application of these going forward.
“We are working hard to ensure the generous donations from the Australian community and others around the world are used in the best way possible to help people and communities cope with the fires and recover well,” Ms Slatyer said. “Emergency cash grants are just the start of what will be a long journey for these people. We will continue to adapt and evolve our plan to support people and communities and will make further announcements as new supports are provided”
Funds donated have already ensured Red Cross has been there for fire affected communities across the country, providing psychological first aid and in some cases other essentials such as food, water and relief supplies. Since July 2019, Red Cross teams have responded to more than 20 bushfires and supported people in 110 relief and evacuation centres.
“Our volunteers and staff are working to support communities impacted during the fires, to process grant applications as they come in and to commence recovery programs in affected communities,” Ms Slatyer said of the hundreds of applications for financial assistance the organisation had received so far. “Once we have the basic information needed to approve a grant, payment is made within a few days.”
The organisation has already committed to investing in tailored recovery programs in the affected communities for at least the next three years in coordination with government and community agencies. “Our recovery programs will include mental health and wellbeing, support for children and people who are vulnerable, community support events and more,” Ms Slatyer said. “It will be guided by consultations with affected communities and our own extensive experience in disaster recovery.”
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