CHARLESTON, W.Va. –
Four years after the historic and tragic flooding that led to its establishment, the RISE West Virginia Program continues to work towards fulfillment of its mission: to aid low income West Virginians seeking assistance in the repair, replacement, or reconstruction of their homes damaged by the June 2016 Flood.
After the 2016 flood, nearly 3,500 homes in the impacted counties of Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Monroe, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Roane, Summers and Webster were deemed structurally damaged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), with at least 1,500 homes destroyed and another 4,000 experiencing major damage. Additionally, over 2,300 properties were recorded as having an average high-water mark of two feet or more in their homes throughout basements, first floors, and over roofs.
On June 4, 2018, the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) was placed in charge of the flood recovery program at the direction of Governor Jim Justice. The West Virginia Department of Commerce provides oversight of the overall financial management, while the WVNG provides oversight of the program and construction execution, and the West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (WVVOAD) handles the overall case management process and coordinates volunteer support and activities.
In the past two years, the RISE West Virginia program has completed 189 homes by rebuilding or replacing them and currently has 49 homes in active construction. There have been 17 bridges completed serving numerous families and eight Clearance and Demolition program projects are complete. In addition, all outstanding projects are out to bid through the solicitation process with the State Purchasing Division.
There are 217 active cases covered under the RISE West Virginia Program. The current breakdown by construction type is as follows: 189 homes are complete, 169 cases require total reconstruction, three cases require some form of rehabilitation actions, 44 cases require new mobile home replacement and one is undergoing the initial intake process.
A total of three multifamily developments have been accepted to provide affordable housing in Kanawha and Nicholas Counties and progress is being made for the Riverview project. Currently, the State is working with the Attorney General’s office to facilitate the acquisition of Riverview to restore 10 affordable housing units back to the community. Additional proposals for the development of eight offsite units are currently being drafted and will be mostly funded by Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds.
At this time last year, 50 homes and four bridges were complete while an additional 344 of the original 433 identified cases were awaiting assignment to a contractor.
“The men and women of the West Virginia National Guard who have taken complete ownership of the construction management, quality assurance and quality control and programmatic elements of the RISE West Virginia program have done a tremendous job of taking care of West Virginians during a time of great need over the past two years,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the WVNG. “While we still have a ways to go in order to completely recover all those who suffered losses during the 2016 flood, Governor Justice has been clear on his expectations that we move with deliberate speed to get these families taken care of. We will be there every step of the way while also building continuity and a way forward for the next time a major flood or disaster strikes.”
Hoyer continued, “Today, we also pay tribute to the 23 individuals who tragically lost their lives on this fateful day four years ago. May we never forget them or their families who carry their memories forward.”
While work is continuing to be accomplished by paid contractors, much has been done through the efforts of volunteer organizations.
In total, volunteers from the United Methodists, Mennonite Disaster Services, Catholic Charities, Episcopal Diocese, Samaritans Purse, Team Rubicon, Southern Baptists, and many other volunteer organizations and individuals have contributed more than 3 million hours of service while helping more than 2,390 families in the impacted counties, equaling more than $58 million in labor costs.
Under the RISE West Virginia program alone, WVVOAD has provided assistance via skilled labor totaling nearly $400,000 and has assisting families with various needs to include furniture, rental assistance and more totaling nearly $90,000.
The Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery program has expended $39,355,033 of grant funding to date, with 97% benefitting low-to-moderate income individuals in the 12 affected counties. Of the expenditures for grant funding, $14,875,569 has been during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Progress continues to be made on the action plan for the CDBG-MIT, or mitigation funds, which were distributed last year. The proposed Mitigation action Plan is due to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by Nov. 1, 2020, for approval and the State is engaging stakeholders and analyzing data to develop the hazard mitigation needs assessment.
The WVNG, Department of Commerce, and WVVOAD will continue to dedicate personnel and resources to the recovery of West Virginia families.
Any families who feel they still have any unmet needs or who are looking for an update on their case are urged to contact the new VOAD office over the phone at 304-553-0927 or through email at DisasterRecovery@wv.gov. A hotline is also available for anyone needing to report fraud with regard to the RISE West Virginia program at 1-866-WVWATCH (1-866-989-2824).