CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County Delegate Dean Jeffries says he got to the office early Monday. He had a new list of names after visiting Clendenin’s homecoming celebration Sunday, three years after the devastating flood of 2016.
“My heart goes out to these people,” Jeffries said about the ones on his list. “There’s people still in campers without running water who need repairs to their houses to make them livable.”
Whether it’s the hazard mitigation program or the RISE West Virginia long-term flood recovery program, the residents have yet to get the full help they need,” Jeffries said during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”
“We’re three years into this and things at that level haven’t been addressed as far as getting housing addressed,” he said. “We’ve had three stick-built houses completed under this program (RISE West Virginia).”
Jeffries said one of the calls he made Monday was to the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office in Washington, D.C. to express concern about the pace the state is moving in spending more than $149 million in HUD funding. He’s also concerned RISE now only have one main contractor on the home construction projects. Jeffries said he told HUD Secretary Ben Carson knows about the issue.
“I have been told that this issue has made it to the desk of Secretary Carson, he is aware of it,” Jeffries said. “He’s spoken to Appalachia Service Project (ASP). He is aware of it and it is on their radar.”
ASP dropped out of the RISE program several weeks ago. He’s still building homes from private donations.
The state has been on and off and back on a slow spender list with HUD.
Jeffries said it may be time for West Virginia VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster) to lead the RISE program.
“The strategy may be that they are going to hand everything over to VOAD since they have been able to build houses and do this efficiently and successfully. Let volunteers take over building for the RISE program and then RISE would pay, I guess, a management fee to VOAD,” Jeffries said.
VOAD’s track record sine the flood occurred has been outstanding, Jeffries said.
“They have actually been a god-send to us. If it wasn’t for them we would have people in tents right now,” he said.
The RISE program has completed 51 homes. Less than five of those are stick-built homes. Most are mobile homes. RISE has 432 pending cases. Gov. Jim Justice has said he wants every home under construction by the end of the year.