Official: Numbers seeking aid reasonable

Published 5:00 am Thursday, October 6, 2005

Red Cross officials downplayed possible instances of fraud andabuse at its Brookhaven center Tuesday afternoon but said it wouldactively investigate instances of fraud and turn the findings overto local law enforcement officials.

Renita Hosler, manager of response communication and marketingfor the American Red Cross in Washington said during a telephoneinterview that current data for the Lincoln County area showed thepercentage of cases in Lincoln and surrounding counties was similarto figures across the nation. Hosler said local statistics did notshow a spike for Lincoln County that would signal any problems. Shedid say Lawrence County statistics did show a small spike.

At least one local volunteer and some local officials disputedthat claim.

Red Cross maintains a database of all Hurricane Katrina cases,which they cross-reference with census data for the area. Hoslersaid current data shows 11.9 percent of Lincoln County householdsreceived aid. On the average 1,394 households in the countyreceived $1,082 per household

Current Red Cross data shows $3,640,323 in aid was distributedin Lincoln, Lawrence, Franklin and Pike Counties representing 3.6percent of the households for an average of $1,077 per household.Lawrence County had the highest percentage in the area with 15.9percent and Pike County the lowest with 4.6 percent. Of thehouseholds in Franklin County, 9.2% received aid. Data released bythe Red Cross is not complete, as all applicants have not beenentered into the system.

Hosler said that should they find instances of abuse they willactively investigate and turn names and addresses over to local lawenforcement officials for prosecution. Hosler said the Red Crosswould look specifically for instance where individuals haveregistered in multiple locations or were family members or namesare registered on multiple applications.

“Our goal is a mission of mercy. Unfortunately there are thosewho try to abuse the system,” Hosler said.