RISE West Virginia program makes slow, but steady progress

CHARLESTON — Since June, the West Virginia National Guard has made progress in getting people who lost their homes during 2016 flooding into houses and trailers, but it acknowledged it remains months from meeting every need.

That’s according to Adjutant Gen. James Hoyer, who gave a presentation on the RISE West Virginia flood recovery program to the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding Tuesday morning at the State Capitol.

“My sense is the individuals out there impacted by RISE believe that the program is moving in the right direction and they have confidence in the program,” Hoyer said. “They may not be happy with the speed in which it’s going…but they have the confidence that we are working expeditiously to take care of the issues the best we can and that we are communicating effectively.”

According to Hoyer, who took over management of RISE West Virginia flood within the state Department of Commerce, said 25 homes have been completed as of Tuesday.

Remaining are 424 cases in the combined case management system created by the National Guard: 166 cases are total reconstruction, 160 are rehabilitation of existing structures, and 98 are mobile home units.

Another 44 mobile home units are under the original construction contracts made before the National Guard had all projects re-bid. A legislative audit determined that construction contracts between the state Department of Commerce and four construction companies costing more than $71 million were granted without approval by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Since re-bidding the construction contracts, the National Guard is working with nine construction companies, including a sub-grant to the Appalachian Service project for rehabilitation projects.

Hoyer said that HUD requires that 70 percent of the community development block grant funds for disaster recovery go to low-income families.

“In our case, we are currently tracking that 100 percent of the funds that we have projected for allocation are going towards low-to-moderate income families,” Hoyer said. “We are clearly serving the population of the State of West Virginia that needs this program the most.”

The state also started a slum and bright removal program under RISE to help with flood clean-up efforts that are still ongoing after record flooding in central and southern West Virginia in June 2016. There are 320 structures in the intake process for demolition spread across 12 counties.

“We must keep doing everything we can to assist our communities as they continue to rebuild,” Gov. Jim Justice said in a press release. “Maj. Gen. James Hoyer and the West Virginia National Guard are working diligently to get this work done, they are focused on it and are moving forward.”

The National Guard took over the management of the RISE program from the Commerce Department after the department came under scrutiny for entering into six illegal contracts totaling more than $18 million with disaster management company Horne LLP. The program was frozen from Feb. 28 until June 4, when Justice put Hoyer in charge.

The RISE West Virginia program is funded by $150 million from Community Development Block Grant funds.

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