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Red Cross Defends Sandy Spending, Noting Long-Term Needs

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - The Red Cross on Wednesday addressed a report that it still has not spent more than a third of the money donated for superstorm Sandy relief.

The American public donated over $302 million for Sandy victims.

"We have spent approximately $200 million," said Josh Lockwood of the American Red Cross of Greater New York at an event in Brooklyn Heights.

Red Cross Defends Sandy Spending, Noting Long-Term Needs

Some advocacy groups have questioned why the Red Cross has not yet distributed all the donations it received for Sandy.

"We know five years after Katrina that there were incredible needs that were met. Sometimes there is a spike in mental health needs, for example, that we might see," Lockwood said Wednesday. "I think some of the effects of Sandy are going to be seen for years. We hope that we are going to meet the needs of everyday New Yorkers within the next 18 to 24 months, that's our hope."

Some advocates suggested the relief organization should have acted with more urgency in the weeks after the storm and left long-haul recovery tasks to someone else.

"The Red Cross has never been a recovery operation. Their responsibility has always been mass care," said Ben Smilowitz with the nonprofit Disaster Accountability Project on Tuesday. "Stick with what you're good at."

The Red Cross was in Brooklyn Heights Wednesday to announce a $1.25 million grant to the Brooklyn Community Foundation to aid recovery efforts for Sandy victims in Canarsie, Coney Island, Gerritsen Beach, Red Hook and Sheepshead Bay

"Not all needs emerge instantly," Marilyn Gelber with the Brooklyn Community Foundation told WCBS 880's Monica Miller. "You can't spend all the money at once. That's probably not the best way of doing it."

The Red Cross is also giving families up to $10,000 to move from temporary housing into something permanent, Miller reported.

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