Red Cross says lion's share of donations to Fort McMurray wildfires will go directly to evacuees

The VP of Alberta says 95 per cent of the money coming in will go directly to helping people affected in both the short- and long-term. The remaining five per cent will be used to process donations.

VP of Alberta says administrative costs ‘will not exceed 5 per cent’

The Red Cross currently has about 600 staff and volunteers on the ground in Alberta responding to the aftermath of the Fort McMurray wildfires. (Radio-Canada)

The Red Cross is defending the way it allocates donations to disasters and promises that those directly affected by the Fort McMurray wildfires will get the lion's share.

"The money will be applied to the event itself, the fires and the impact, and will stay in Alberta and will go to assisting residents of the Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo area and the community to transition into recovery and then longer-term recovery," said Jenn McManus, vice-president for the Red Cross in Alberta.

The Red Cross has collected roughly $60 million from Canadians, all of which will be matched by both the Alberta and federal governments.

McManus told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday that there is an administrative cost to processing all of those donations, but that it "will not exceed five per cent" of the total.

Jenn McManus is the vice-president for the Canadian Red Cross in Alberta. (CBC)

The remaining 95 per cent is held in trust and "they are 100 per cent allocated to this event."

The Red Cross is currently handing out cash cards directly to Fort McMurray evacuees at shelters in Calgary and Edmonton, McManus said. 

"So they can go and purchase supplies and goods for themselves. It's quite empowering for people to be able to make decisions, especially when decisions currently right now in their reality are quite limited."

Charity watchdog gave out 'incorrect' data

On Friday, the managing director of a Canadian charity watchdog criticized the Red Cross on CBC's As It Happens for how it doled out its share of donations during the 2013 Alberta floods to other not-for-profits working on the front lines.

"The Red Cross received $43 million, local charities received less than two per cent of that yet they had to do the bulk of the work," said Kate Bahen of Charity Intelligence Canada.

But the group is spreading "inaccurate" information, said McManus, and the actual amount that the Red Cross gave out was closer to 26 per cent or $11.1-million.

"The numbers are incorrect," said McManus.

She said to date, the Red Cross has provided $1.4 million to Samaritan's Purse, $1 million to Habitat for Humanity and financial support to 84 other organizations for local projects, events and workshops that contributed to recovery efforts in the communities affected by the floods.

Volunteers load water for evacuees from the Fort McMurray wildfires at the evacuation centre in Lac la Biche, Alta., on Friday. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

"We're entering into the third year of the 2013 flood recovering operation of the Red Cross in southern Alberta, and we're still assisting families that are just coming into our Red Cross offices across the province."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener