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STATEMENT OF ELLSWORTH BUNKER, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN
NATIONAL RED CROSS Mr. BUNKER. Mr. Chairman, Senator Lehman, and Senator Bush. I appreciate very much the invitation to speak to this distinguished committee and to describe briefly the role of the American Red Cross in disasters, and the scope of its work, what we do and how we go about doing it.
The Red Cross was reincorporated in 1905 by Federal statute as the official instrumentality of the United States Government to assist in carrying out responsibilities assumed under an international treatythe Geneva Convention. At that time it was also charged by the same statute—and I will quote the words of the statute—to “carry on a system of national and international relief in time of peace and apply the same in mitigating the sufferings caused by pestilence, famine, fire, floods, and other great national calamities, and to devise and carry on measures for preventing the same.
During the ensuing half century the American National Red Cross has expended more than $200 million in giving relief to men, women, and children, the victims of calamities to which our Nation has been subjected. As contemplated by the charter, all of these funds have been derived from voluntary contributions. They have come from a generous American public.
I might say in the case of this recent disaster, not only thousands of contributions came not only from a generous American public, but literally from all over the world. We have had gifts from 34 foreign countries toward the relief of this disaster.
None of this money has been provided through congressional appropriations.
Throughout this period the Red Cross has interpreted its responsibility to be that of providing assistance to individuals and families, rather than that of restoring utilities or other facilities normally maintained by public authorities. Therefore I can say, I think with confidence, that no conflict has arisen between the Red Cross and other Federal agencies who are authorized to provide disaster relief. Quite the contrary, the Red Cross always enjoyed the closest cooperation of the other Federal agencies that have assisted the stricken communities.
The Congress and the executive branch of the Government have repeatedly noted the distinction between these activities of the agencies operating with funds appropriated and made available by the Congress, and those carried out by the Red Cross with funds which are voluntarily contributed.
For example, the terms of Public Law 875, which were approved September 30, 1950, authorizing Federal assistance in the major disasters, made provision for very close cooperation between the Red Cross and the other Federal agencies; but it was also very careful to distinguish between their functions and authority. Agreements have been entered into between the Federal Civil Defense Administration and the Red Cross to implement these provisions of Public Law 875. These have carefully spelled out operating details to insure maximum coordination and cooperation. At the same time they have recognized the essentially different categories of disaster relief assistance provided by the Red Cross and agencies of the Government which operate with appropriated funds.
In carrying out these responsibilities of its congressional charter, the Red Cross maintains a nationwide organization of more than 3,700 chapters. These chapters cover every county in the United States and Territories and insular possessions as well. Each chapter is responsible for the development of a disaster preparedness plan and establishing an organization of trained volunteers which can go into action immediately should a disaster occur in the chapter's territory. I may say it is an obligatory service of each chapter.
An important part of this plan provides for coordination with public officials and other community groups. The Red Cross maintains also at national headquarters and in area offices a highly trained body of experienced disaster relief workers who work with the chapters in the event of a major disaster.
Immediately following a disaster, the Red Cross provides emergency assistance for all of the disaster-affected persons who are in need. Shelters are provided for those whose homes are unusable or untenable; food and clothing and medical and nursing attention are given. While this assistance in the first few hours or days following a disaster is often the most dramatic and is always easily recognizable, I think it is interesting to note that 20 cents or less of each Red Cross disaster relief dollar is spent for that kind of help. Eighty cents or more of each Red Cross disaster relief dollar is spent in helping families and small businesses who are unable to reestablish themselves with their own resources. So that the major Red Cross job, therefore, is really long-term assistance, that is, helping to restore the capacity of the family to reach and maintain its predisaster way of living. That assistance may include clothing, food, maintenance, the repair or rebuilding of homes and other buildings, the replacement of household furnishings, payment of hospital and doctor bills, long-term medical care, provision of supplies and equipment or tools needed by a worker to earn his living.
Assistance also may be given to small businesses owned and operated by families which have insufficient resources to recover from disaster losses on their own. For example, in the Eastern States floods of last August and October, the Red Cross helped more than 1,150 small businesses to replace stock, supplies, tools, and equipment, and repair or rebuild their places of business.
I think it is important to note that the Red Cross makes no attempt to replace all disaster-caused losses. What we try to do is to meet disaster-caused needs of families, small businesses and farmers, that cannot be met within the resources that are available to them.
I should like to emphasize too that this assistance is given on an individual basis. Obviously, no two families are alike, and no two have identical losses, and no two have the same resources or the same problems, so no two will have the same disaster-caused needs. The Red Cross worker discusses with each individual or family in detail the family situation, such as the home ownership or business ownership, the health and earning capacity, the insurance, and other ipsources and liabilities. Together they develop a plan which in each instance is submitted for approval by the Red Cross to an advisory committee composed of responsible local citizens, who are appointed in each community following each disaster, and who do make and have the final scrutiny of the award and the approval of it.
Another point which I should like to emphasize strongly is the fact that the Red Cross assistance given both during the immediate emergency and long-term assistance are given without any obligation to repay. The assistance is on outright gift made through the Red
. Cross by the American people, who give their voluntary contributions for this purpose.
I think the committee will be interested in knowing the scope of the assistance which has been extended by the Red Cross following these floods. More than 45,000 persons were helped during the emergency days immediately following the floods of August 19 and October 16, at a cost to the Red Cross of just over $2 million. But more than 14,000 individuals and families or small businesses have been given long-term assistance at a cost in excess of $13 million. The total relief commitments, as of November 11, amount to $15,373,646. Of this amount 44 percent represents the expense of repair or restoration and rebuilding of houses, businesses, farms, and other buildings; 34 percent was spent for household furnishings; 11 percent for occupational tools, stock, fixtures and equipment for small businesses; and il percent for food, clothing, and medical care.
Cases are still being processed and these figures are not final. They will run considerably higher than the amounts I have mentioned, but I think it is apparent that from the figures I have mentioned, disaster relief is a complex matter and it involves many types of assistance if the needs of the victims are to be met effectively and satisfactorily.
I think it is instructive to consider the needs for Red Cross assistance in disasters caused by hurricanes, tornadoes, and other storms. Wind damage, as the committee knows, is coverable by insurance. Nevertheless, despite the fact that insurance claims totaling many millions of dollars were paid in 1953 to victims of a series of tornadoes that afflicted the Nation then, the Red Cross spent $3,600,000 for tornado relief in providing mass care for 60,000 persons and long-term assistance to 6,000 families.
Last year, when the eastern coast was hit by Hurricanes Carol, Edna, and Hazel, and again large insurance claims were paid totaling many millions of dollars, the Red Cross gave emergency mass care to more than 61,000 individuals and more than 7,000 families applied for and received assistance in the amount of $2,400,000.
The Red Cross has accumulated through many years, I think over the years of experience in disaster relief, a great deal of data concerning the frequency, type, and geographical spread of disaster, and concerning the needs of the disaster victims. All of this information, of course, is available to the committee, should you believe it helpful for your consideration.
Finally, in keeping with the policy of the American Red Cross not to attempt to influence the deliberations of the Congress, and to confine its comments to legislation having a direct bearing on the congressional-authorized activities of the Red Cross, we offer no opinion on the various plans which have been made regarding a Federal disaster insurance plan. We do believe, however, that this is a matter deserving the most earnest consideration of the Congress and would, of course, welcome any measure which would lessen human suffering caused by disasters..
Again, we certainly shall continue to cooperate to the very best of our ability with all of the public and private agencies in the alleviation of the disaster-caused suffering.
I would like to comment further, Mr. Chairman, that we have had the most cordial relations with all Government authorities, Members of the Senate—you and Senator Bush and Senators of the affected States—the Congressmen and Governor Ribicoff and all of the other governors have been tremendously cooperative and helpful in assisting us in carrying out these obligations which the Congress has imposed on the Red Cross.
We have worked in the closest way with Civil Defense and with the Small Business Administration, with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and the mayors and officials of the communities affected.
We have had also, I think, an astonishing example of a response on the part of the American people to our appeal for funds. We asked for $10 million originally and discontinued the appeal when we reached that amount; but as of today we have received about $15.5 million. As I said earlier, contributions from all over the world with expres. sions of friendship and affection for the victims of the disaster, were received.
I have been and we have been greatly impressed by the courage and determination of the victims and the way they have set about rebuilding and restoring and getting
back to a normal way of living, and by their gratitude for what the Red Cross has done.
I appreciate very much, Mr. Chairman, the opportunity to speak to you, and I appreciate the courtesy of the Congressmen in allowing
, me to speak now so that we could return to New York. It was a great pleasure to be here.
Senator LEHMAN. Thank you very much. Senator Bush.
Senator Bush. Mr. Chairman, I presume Mr. Bunker would like to have included at the end of his remarks these two tables in back of his prepared statement.
Mr. BUNKER. Yes; I would, Senator. Thank you. Senator Busu. I take it then, Mr. Bunker, that you do not care to offer any observations today on the question of flood insurance?
Mr. BUNKER. No; except to say, of course, the Red Cross will wel. come anything which will lessen human suffering and suffering caused by disaster. We will certainly cooperate with the Government in any way.
Senator Bush. Mr. Chairman, I certainly want to say a word on behalf of our State for the record here, regarding the services of the American National Red Cross in the recent disasters affecting Connecticut, not only the first, but the second flood. The Red Cross was on the job immediately and brought into this area its highly trained body of experienced disaster relief workers, without which I just do not know what we would have done. They came in with clear heads and plenty of money, fortunately, and they did a perfectly extraordinary and magnificent service for this State. I feel that we here will forever be grateful to the Red Cross for its very extended service: They are still here, some of them, working on cases which developed during these floods.
It has been a matter of tremendous comfort and inspiration to all of us to have had the Red Cross in our State at this crucial time.
Mr. BUNKER. Thank you.
Sentaor LEHMAN. I need not assure you, I am certain, of the great appreciation that the people of my State have for the work of the Red Cross in this disaster, as in many others. There are just 1 or 2 questions I would like to ask
you. Mr. BUNKER. Yes, sir.
Senator LEHMAN. On page 2 of your statement you state the following:
While assistance in the first few hours or days following a disaster is often the most dramatic and is always easily recognizable, only 20 cents or less of each Red Cross disaster relief dollar is spent for such help. Eighty cents or more of each Red Cross disaster relief dollar is spent in helping families and small businesses who are unable to reestablish themselves within their own resources.
That comes as somewhat a surprise to me because I had an idea that virtually all of the money that was contributed to the Red Cross went for direct palliative disaster relief. Let me ask you whether the figures you have given there of 20 for relief and 80 för rehabilitation are unusual figures just for this disaster, or is that more or less normal in all disasters which have been handled by the Red Cross?
Mr. BUNKER. Senator, that is an average. In this disaster I think more than 80 cents will go for the long-term relief job.
Senator LEHMAX. I am just looking for information. It is hard to reconcile it because you name some previous flood-relief operations and I will pick out the first one—the Mississippi Valley flood of 1927, where you have 637,000 persons receiving emergency mass care, as, compared to only 45,000 in the present flood disaster. Yet you spent only $17 million at that time. I know the value of the dollar has changed in those years.
Mr. BUNKER. Yes.
Senator LEHMAX. But is is hard to realize that you could have used very much of your funds in that disaster for rehabilitation work, because with 637,000 needing relief of one kind or another, I would assume almost all of the money was used for palliative relief.
Mr. BunKER. No, Senator. I think the number who received longterm rehabilitation was 121,000 in that disaster, compared to 15,000 in the present one. So that the ratio was still pretty close. But that 80 percent is an average over a period of years.
I say in this present disaster we will be spending probably 85 cents or more on the long-term job.
I might also say I think one of the reasons why we would be spending more on the long-term damage job here is that the damage was relatively more severe. For example, in a flood on the Mississippi, in a normal flood, the waters rise rather slowly and people have warning and time to get away. In these disasters it came with almost no warning to those living on the Connecticut. It came so suddenly and the waters attained such velocity that the damage was relatively very heavy.
Senator, also I think if I may say so the general conception of what the Red Cross does is that it does an emergency job, but it is actually the rehabilitation, restoration, and rebuilding and long-term job which is the important thing we do. Not that they are not both important, but the great proportion of our funds go into that job of rebuilding and repairing homes and restoring the small-business people..