Get moving on federal projects

Federal officials may wonder, sometimes, just how much help West Virginia really needs in recovering from natural disasters. After all, when Washington offers help, we seem very slow to take it.

That became a scandal last year, when it was discovered the state was on a Federal Emergency Management Agency “slow spender” list regarding flood relief assistance. It developed that nearly $150 million in federal aid for flood victims in southern West Virginia was being doled out with little or no sense of urgency.

Delays in spending federal disaster aid are a headache here in the Northern Panhandle, too. As we have reported, about 43 percent of the federally funded projects to repair roads damaged in February 2018 flooding have not even been started.

FEMA and Federal Highways Administration officials have approved funding for 361 road repair projects stemming from February 2018 flooding in Brooke, Hancock, Marshall, Ohio, Tyler and Wetzel counties, which comprise state Division of Highways District 6. Only 76 of those projects have been completed. Work is in progress on another 129 — but nothing has been accomplished at 156 sites.

Chuck Henry, of DOH District 6, told our reporter FEMA and the FHA have approved $47.2 million for the projects. Only about $4.2 million in work has been completed.

There are limits to the patience of FEMA and FHA officials. FHA funding has to be spent by September 2020. The FEMA deadline is Oct. 16, though the agency may approve an extension.

But extension or no extension, area motorists continue to have to cope with damaged roads for which repair money is available.

Local DOH officials and workers have not been leaning on their shovels on this one. They lack the resources to keep up with all the road repairs our area needs.

State officials need to do more to help. If engineering assistance is needed to determine how to proceed on specific projects, District 6 should get more of it. If DOH crews and equipment are inadequate to tackle all the repairs, private contractors should be hired.

Some way of speeding up the process needs to be found. For crying out loud, let’s get a move on before the folks in Washington decide they have better places to help.

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