Major companies that opened their wallets to relief efforts almost before Sandy's floodwaters had fully receded have won the heartfelt thanks of elected leaders working around the clock to improve their communities' lives.
The world's largest retailer has been "extraordinarily generous to the state of New Jersey in many different ways," New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, R, said Saturday at a Little Ferry, N.J., store where Wal-Mart was giving out water.
Wal-Mart's and Purchase-based PepsiCo's corporate leaderships are "awesome," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, R, said at a Sunday news conference in New York. Each company sent five tractor trailers of goods to be distributed by the National Guard, Cuomo said.
Along with funding raised by other relief agencies, these companies are helping leaders deal with the aftermath of Sandy, the Atlantic's largest recorded tropical storm, which slammed into the East Coast on Oct. 29. The superstorm caused as much as $50 billion in economic damage, according to Eqecat Inc., a risk-management company in Oakland, Calif.
Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., got much of the praise, but other companies have made bigger pledges. JPMorgan has promised as much as $5 million in charitable donations to the American Red Cross and local agencies aiding in the recovery efforts, as well as as much as $5 billion in reduced cost loan assistance for small- and medium-sized businesses affected by the storm. Disney committed $2 million.
Citigroup donated $1 million to the American Red Cross and announced it is suspending foreclosures in the affected area and waiving various bank fees. Department-store chain Kohl's gave $1 million and discount retailer Target donated $500,000 to the Red Cross.
"Mobilizing for an effort like this is exceptionally expensive, and corporations have really stepped up and been exceptionally generous so far," Red Cross spokeswoman Anne Marie Borrego said. "Still, there is still a continued need for donations due to the severity of the disaster." Recovery progressed slowly in New Jersey, where Sandy came ashore near Atlantic City at 8 p.m. Oct. 29. As of Sunday, 25 percent of homes and businesses in New Jersey, 8 percent of those in New York and 4 percent in Connecticut and West Virginia remained without electricity.
The American Red Cross also has an annual disaster giving program, where 39 companies have pledged to donate $1 million a year in advance of disasters.
For example, Wal-Mart's logistics expertise and wide network of government contacts put it in a position to respond fast when disaster strikes, said Dianna Gee, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman.
"We have those relationships already," she said. "When things like this happen, it's not the time to be passing out business cards."