NEPTUNE - Despite a rocky start, the Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund has had a successful first year, distributing millions of dollars to charities which assist Sandy victims while keeping administrative costs low, according to a review by Kane In Your Corner .
The fund, established by New Jersey first lady Mary Pat Christie, has distributed $20 million to non-profit groups in the year since Sandy. Grants include $4.5 million to 30 New Jersey schools, $1.5 million to the Princeton Area Community Foundation, and more than $1.3 million to several chapters of Habitat for Humanity.
Recipients say the money has had a huge impact. Maureen Mulligan, executive director of Coastal Habitat for Humanity, says her organization typically builds or rebuilds about 10 homes a year. In the year since Sandy, it's done 100 homes, and hopes to do as many as 600 more over the next four years. "It's those grants that continue to allow us to do this," Mulligan says. "We couldn't without the funding."
The Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund did not get off to a stellar start. In March, the group drew criticism amid news the fund had yet to distribute any of the then $32 million it had collected. Officials with the fund declined Kane In Your Corner's request for an interview, but have said it simply took them longer than expected to get organized because of the extent of the disaster.
In one key metric, the percentage of donations distributed to program expenses, the fund's record is exemplary. The Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund uses 95 percent of donations for program expenses, keeping administrative costs to just 5 percent. According to standards established by the Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance, charities should disburse at least 65 percent of donations to program expenses.
Not all Sandy related charities have done so well. Over the summer, a judge ordered an unregistered charity, doing business under a name similar to the first lady's organization, to shut down. Authorities say the couple that ran that group, the Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation, spent donations on personal expenses, leaving tens of thousands of dollars unaccounted for.