Port A mayor says American Red Cross failed townspeople following hurricane

- The CEO of the American Red Cross Gulf Coast Region announced his resignation saying he disagreed with the organization's response to Hurricane Harvey. 

The Red Cross has chosen Austin-area leader Marty McKellips as the interim executive, but the mayor of Port Aransas said it is too late for the organization to make up for their lack of response in his town.

On August 25 the Texas Gulf Coast got slammed by Hurricane Harvey. Towns like Rockport, Port Aransas and Aransas Pass took the brunt of the storm. 

“75 to 80 percent of our homes were either damaged or totally destroyed,” said Port Aransas Mayor Charles Bujan.  

Bujan said one thing is missing when it comes to recovery efforts and it has been missing since day one. 

“The Red Cross, all they did was come to town several times over the weeks after the hurricane and say that they were going to be here, but they never got here,” Bujan said.  

The mayor said the Red Cross provided money to people impacted by the storm in $400 increments, but while people in the nearby city of Corpus Christi got more than $3 million, those in his town only received $166,000. 

“The storm hit here, Rockport and Aransas Pass. It didn't hit in Corpus Christi. Corpus Christi had a rain event,” said Bujan.  

McKellips, who will be stepping in as interim executive of the gulf coast region following the resignation of former CEO David Brady, said she believes the mayor is misinformed about how the Red Cross handles financial assistance after a disaster. 

“That was a program that was designed to get some quick cash into people's hands who had to evacuate and so it's not just based on how much damage did you have, it's based on did you have to leave your home in advance of that storm,” McKellips said.  

Bujan said when he asked the Red Cross and the people in his town what happened, he was told many were denied the money because of a computer glitch.  

“When you have people who are devastated by a disaster, the very worst thing that you can do is come flying into town holding out hope and then producing nothing,” said Bujan.  

The mayor says FEMA, the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, and the Small Business Administration are still operating at the emergency operations center in Port A. 

“The Red Cross has long since disappeared,” Bujan said. 

McKellips said Red Cross shelters in Port A have closed, but that doesn't mean the work they are doing there has ended. 

“Our role isn't to go in and make sure everybody's houses get rebuilt and that sort of thing, our role is to provide mass care at the beginning of a disaster, things like sheltering, feeding, that sort of thing,” said McKellips. 

Because she hasn't yet visited the Gulf Coast region, she isn't sure where the disconnect was, but McKellips hopes she has the chance to show Mayor Bujan that the Red Cross hasn't forgotten about the citizens there. 

“I want to say that I'm very disappointed and sad that they feel that way and I would like an opportunity to talk to them and see what exactly it is that they're upset about and what we can do to help make things better in the future,” McKellips said.  

For the mayor, it may be too little, too late. 

“I don't think the Red Cross will ever gain my trust back,” said Bujan.  
 

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