RISE failures are infuriating
Many victims of the June 2016 floods that devastated areas of southern and central West Virginia have reasons to be angry at the state RISE program, created to help them recover. Delays in actually getting help to them are inexcusable.
But at least six flood victims may be wondering whether they have been forgotten. Though the are on RISE’s list for aid, state officials have not even found time to learn how badly hurt the victims were and what they need to recover.
Last week, National Guard Major General James Hoyer delivered a report on flood recovery. As state adjutant general, Hoyer heads the National Guard, which was given responsibility for the RISE program after the Commerce Department failed miserably on it.
Foot dragging in that agency became evident earlier this year. Last fall, federal officials approved nearly $150 million in aid for the 2016 flood victims.
But six months after the money had been approved, less than $1.2 million had been spent.
Gov. Jim Justice then pulled RISE out of the Commerce Department and put the National Guard in charge.
Progress is being made, Hoyer reported last week. Construction on 18 houses for flood victims is complete. Another 49 homes are under construction.
Of the 435 victims’ cases still active under RISE, 163 will require full replacement of homes and another 157 need partial rehabilitation. In addition, 109 mobile homes need replaced, Hoyer reported.
Then Hoyer noted that six properties on the RISE list remain to be assessed.
In other words, more than two years after the floods, state government does not even know what six victims need.
Don’t blame the National Guard. Hoyer and his subordinates appear to be working hard and accomplishing much.
But the information raises new questions – not to mention anger – about the Commerce Department. How is it that an assessment of six flood victims’ damage and needs was not done within weeks, or at least a few months, of the flooding?
State legislators already have begun investigating RISE. Some heads, including that of former Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, already have rolled.
Clearly, lawmakers — and all West Virginians — have ample reason to be furious. Holding all involved in the fiasco accountable should be a priority.