'Devastating' funding cuts impact local Red Cross

By MARK BOONE, WCNC, June 28, 2009

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Reeling from the loss of nearly $500,000 in funding from the United Way, the head of the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the American Red Cross said the agency will be forced to scale back its aid for victims of disaster as well as several education programs.

Pamela Jefsen, the chapter’s CEO, said the United Way has been providing more than a quarter of the Red Cross’ funding.

The funding cut, announced last Wednesday, amounts to about 12% of the annual budget for the local chapter, Jefsen told NewsChannel 36.

“The cut is just devastating,” she said. “It is going to affect the most vulnerable in our community as a result because we just can’t continue with the same level of service.

Some victims of fires and other emergencies have received hotel vouchers for up to 7 days, and assistance in paying the security deposit and first month’s rent for a new home from the Red Cross.

Jefsen said the agency will no longer provide a security deposit and can only afford to place victims in hotel rooms for up to 3 days.

“If they don’t get help, they’re homeless,” she said.

About 40% of the staff at the Red Cross, based at an office on Park Road, has been laid off in the last 14 months, Jepsen said.

Donations outside of the United Way campaign are also down, leading to a reduction of another $400,000 in the chapter’s budget.

Fewer CPR and first aid training courses will be offered as a result of the staff cuts, Jefsen said.

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