Red Cross stepping in after TX left out of billion dollar aid package

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Evacuees fill up cots at the George Brown Convention Center that has been turned into a shelter run by the American Red Cross to house victims of the high water from Hurricane Harvey on August 28, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Harvey, which made landfall north of Corpus Christi late Friday evening, is expected to dump upwards to 40 inches of rain in areas of Texas over the next couple of days. (Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The U.S. Senate is moving forward with a $36.5 billion hurricane relief package that leaves both Texas and Florida out. Monday night senators gave preliminary approval and are expected to give the final OK Tuesday.

Most of the aid package will go to FEMA, with $16 billion going towards the federal flood insurance claims. While the bill rejects requests from Texas and Florida for more money to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey and Irma, Senator John Cornyn told the Texas Tribune President Donald Trump told him aid would come in a separate bill in November. Some lawmakers say the focus right now should be on helping Puerto Rico where 80 percent of the island is still without power.

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott estimates Hurricane Harvey left behind $180 billion in damage. Tuesday, state lawmakers will meet at the capitol to figure out how to make the most out of the federal and state money available.

While the state waits for additional funding, the American Red Cross for Central and South Texas has been stepping in to help and says the needs are greater than ever.

“In the past few weeks we have provided more financial assistance, more shelter nights than we have provided in the last 5 years through the American Red Cross,” says Marty McKellips, Regional Chief Executive Central and South Texas.

After Hurricane Harvey the Red Cross raised $390 million. That money was used for opening and running shelters, food and medical care. A little less than half of that — $190 million — was also distributed to 477,000 households to help them get back on their feet. The organization has also given out more than 3 million meals or snacks and more than 1 million relief supplies — things like diapers and deodorant.

Overall they say this has been their largest response to a disaster and it’s not over. Right now they are in their second phase of their disaster relief efforts that still requires a lot of financial support.

“We work with those families whose homes have been most damaged or destroyed or very major damage and we will provide them with continuing financial assistance and connecting them to other organizations that are trying to help,” McKellips says.

Additional funding raised by the Red Cross will be used for long-term recovery efforts that could span years.

“We have a saying that the Red Cross never leaves,” McKellips says.

Kate Weidaw is LIVE at the Red Cross in East Austin on KXAN News Today with details of next steps in disaster recovery.

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