West Virginia is off ‘slow spender’ list for flood relief

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia is off the “slow spender” list for federal disaster relief dollars.

The state had been on that list for months after getting the go-ahead to use $150 million in disaster relief grants for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Citing the list, which is an official designation from HUD, became a shorthand way of describing West Virginia’s pace of responding to housing needs after the devastating 2016 floods.

But the latest version of HUD’s monthly grant financial report for Community Development Block Grants-Disaster Relief indicates a change.

“I am happy to report we’re off the slow spender list,” Adjutant General James Hoyer said at a Tuesday morning meeting of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Flooding.

“All right!” responded Delegate Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, who represents an area that was struck hard in 2016.

West Virginia is now listed as “on pace.”

Of the $149,875,000 in federal dollars that West Virginia has to spend on long-term disaster relief, the state has $138,743,064 on hand.

Last month, West Virginia still had $146,656,483 on hand.

The big difference was likely a big check.

Early this month, a final check for $6.7 million cleared for Horne LLP, a national consulting firm contracted to help West Virginia manage its long-term flood relief efforts.

West Virginia officials cut short the originally-anticipated scope of work for Horne, paying out for work that the consultant had already completed.

The state has now completed 39 homes for victims of the 2016 flood.

“It seems to me the 39 completed is about double more than what it was six months ago,” commented Senator Chandler Swope, R-Mercer.

Hoyer responded, “It’s 38 more than it was six months ago.”

Many more are in process.

There are still 410 outstanding homeowner cases, according to RISE West Virginia.

Of those, 171 cases require total reconstruction, 153 cases require some form of rehabilitation, and 86 cases require new mobile home unit replacement.

Hoyer told lawmakers that the full amount of work still to be done could take two more years. He said winter weather could affect how quickly the work is done.

“I still believe we’ve got 24 months of work to do with the goal of expediting that,” he said.

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