CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gen. James Hoyer knows he has a big job ahead.
The adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard has taken on the task of making sure long-term relief for flooded West Virginia communities succeeds.
“Number one priority the governor has is to make sure those who were flooded from 2016 who need and deserve housing get taken care of,” Hoyer said today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”
Hoyer was among those at the table on Monday as Gov. Jim Justice promised a speedier, more accountable response to long-term relief from the devastating 2016 floods.
Justice described placing his faith in Hoyer to iron out issues that have arisen through administration of the RISE West Virginia program.
The governor spoke of making big changes in the Department of Commerce, which has overseen RISE.
“There could very well be multiple people that we need to readdress and realign if not replace,” Justice said Monday. “In doing so, under Commerce, General Hoyer I have asked him to fill in and take over all of the flood relief duties effective today.”
On “Talkline” today, Hoyer noted that the West Virginia National Guard has already taken on several additional responsibilities, including helping with the state’s prison system and playing a support role in the fight against an opioid epidemic in the Huntington area.
He said he and the Guard are up to this challenge, though.
Hoyer said flood relief organizations will work together more cooperatively comparing the needs identified under RISE with those identified by local organizations such as West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.
“We’ve got to do this simultaneously,” he said.
Most of the criticism of RISE has focused on the slow pace of administering about $150 million in funds meant for long-term relief.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development gave the official OK to use the funds in late February.
But West Virginians at the local level have said they were under the impression that the funds would be available as early as last August.
“The Guard is good at busting through bureaucracy and executing and making things happen,” Hoyer said. “We’ll identify the immediate stumbling blocks that are holding up the process.”
The long-term relief comes with significant stipulations for its use.
Hoyer says he has a meeting this afternoon to learn more about environmental assessments “and we’re going to identify the fix for it.”
He added, “We’re going to understand it by the end of the day and get it moving.”
Justice ended his Monday news conference by asking for a month to make real progress.
Hoyer said much of that progress will depend on cooperation with local volunteer organizations.
“I’ve got to make sure the volunteer groups have the support they need so we take care of people while we’re fixing problems,” He said.
He said West Virginians with concerns may reach out to the National Guard.
“Anybody who has an issue who still hasn’t gotten an answer can call our office,” Hoyer said.
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) June 5, 2018