HUNDRED, W.Va. — Moving forward, rebuilding, and discovering “the Hundred in ten years, not the Hundred of 30 years ago” were the prime topics as federal operatives and state officials met with residents of Hundred Wednesday night, just two days prior to the closure of the final Disaster Recovery Center in the state.
“What we want to do is try to help you,” Major General James Hoyer of the West Virginia National Guard said. “We understand that the individual and family level, there’s lots of frustration about the process and how things go. And we understand that, but we’ll do the best we can to help you.”
The meeting served as a chance to answer questions, provide contact information, and connect residents with additional resources in the surrounding area as federal resources on-the-ground begin to shift to other disaster-needy locations in the United States, including Florida, Texas, and possibly Puerto Rico. The process remains ongoing, but Hoyer took note that — at bare minimum — everyone in the area now had shelter following the flooding of July 28 and 29.
“We got to understand that in this business, you will never make a family whole from a disaster response,” Hoyer said. “You do the best you can to try to get them back as close as you can to that level, but you never make a family whole.”
Hoyer and fellow speakers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency emphasized the point, noting that the approximate maximum aid package of $33,000 from FEMA isn’t designed to bail a person or family out following a natural disaster. He said it’s the best case scenario starting point, but that it isn’t likely for every person impacted by the late July flooding. That’s why Wetzel County resident Michael Geho said the other resources provided at Wednesday’s meeting were more vital to the people of Hundred.
“I think the towns people done well with getting a grip on how that whole process works as far as emergency management,” he said. “Because for someone that’s unfamiliar with it, it’s somewhat difficult to understand. I think they’ve come a long way — I can tell by some of the questions tonight.”
Hoyer said the June 2016 floods were an eye opener for the Tomblin Administration and the eventual Justice Administration. Using the VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters) system, Hoyer said they’ve been able to rebuild or renovate more than 1,000 homes in southern West Virginia. That system is what he hopes the town of Hundred can use as a model moving forward. But, Hoyer cautioned, that model shouldn’t be used to “bring back the Hundred of 30 years ago.”
“All donated dollars, we have rebuilt 520 homes from the ground up and renovated 530 homes,” Hoyer said. “Not a single federal dollar spent on any of that. It was all donated dollars, and when you add up all the donated dollars and time it was more than $27 million dollars of investment.”
Geho said he felt encouraged after the meeting that his home could have a viable future, something Hoyer stressed repeatedly.
“It’s a learning process for us all,” Geho said. “General Hoyer has a very good grasp on how emergency management works. The representative from FEMA, between him and the General, they passed along a lot of good information. I’ve got a good feeling coming out of it. I think we had the right people here from the community.”
While the final DRC in the state set up to respond to July flooding closes this week, the deadline for applying for aid or loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration is Oct. 17. Residents submitting appeals to FEMA who were issued denials for aid applications have up to 60 days after their denial to submit an appeal.
The money allocated for flood recovery in West Virginia has already been appropriated — meaning it will have no impact on future funding decisions for disasters in Texas, Florida, and potentially Puerto Rico.
“All disasters start local, and all disasters end local,” one FEMA rep said. The mantra of the night: the federal government can only do so much. Geho took that to heart.
“I feel more confident,” he said, following the meeting’s conclusion. “Yes. I do.”