A woman who claimed the Red Cross grants of vulnerable families after the Canterbury earthquakes has been sentenced to two years and three months in prison.

Donna Paish received $18,000 from the Red Cross using different names and addresses, between 2010 and 2011.

The money was meant to be used for people who had to leave their homes, or live without power, but she spent it on KFC, alcohol and the drug P.

Judge Michael Crosbie said an aggravating factor was that actual occupants missed out on grants, depriving them of money that could have helped in a tough situation.

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The 40-year-old's sentence also incorporated convictions for benefit fraud.

She broke down in tears when the judges told her that he hoped the community's reaction would weigh heavy on her shoulders, and cause her to change her ways.