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Why half of the money raised for bushfire victims still hasn’t been distributed

Months on from the bushfires which devastated East Gippsland, just half of the $200 million raised by the Australian Red Cross has been distributed to fire victims.

More than four months after the fires, $80 million has been distributed as victim grants, while $5 million has been spent supporting emergency relief teams on the ground and a further $18 million has been allocated to a three-year recovery program.

Red Cross Director of Australian Programs, Noel Clement, said fraudulent claims have delayed the process of getting funds to those who need them.

“We had, in the early days, hundreds of what we call bot generators, so electronically generated applications that were relatively easy to block and sift out,” he told 3AW’s Dee Dee.

“Since that time we’ve had cleverer applications that we call suspicious at this stage. About 25 per cent are suspicious. They either have information that we believe may be falsified, or are claiming property damage that, when we’ve done initial inspections, has not been the case.”

Mr Clement said the other reason funds are yet to be distributed is because not everyone who needs assistance has come forward.

“We said from the outset that recovery from disasters is a marathon, not a sprint, and it takes time,” he said.

“At the moment is we’ve actually got funds available and there are people who’ve still not come forward for support … either for pride or because they’re dealing with day-to-day realities.”

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