Flood relief group looking for other options with federal funding coming to an end next summer

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 470 recovery cases from the June 2016 Flood remain open for West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active In Disaster with just more than six months left in the federal grant program that’s providing funding for disaster case managers.

Jenny Gannaway, executive director of West Virginia Organizations Active in Disaster, said that does not mean her group’s work is finished.

“We don’t quit until the last family is helped,” she said.

On Tuesday, Gannaway and Cathy Renard, who oversees disaster case management for West Virginia VOAD alongside Gannaway, were in front of members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding at the State Capitol.

The two were asked to testify about the VOAD progress in flood recovery using donated dollars and volunteers as compared to the previously-stalled RISE West Virginia program, the Mountain State’s long-term flood recovery program drawing on federal dollars.

During testimony, they said, after a one-year extension, $5 million in grant funding for 22 case managers and staff members working with flood victims in central and southeastern West Virginia would come to an end at the close of June 2019 — three years after the flood.

Before then, “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Renard said.

“We’ve got more funding sources that we need to tap into, volunteer teams that we need to tap into to help us bring this thing across the finish line, but we’re headed in a good direction.”

Work was already underway, they said, to transfer cases not closed before June 30 to United Methodist Disaster Relief or to another charitable foundation.

In the more than two years since the flood, Gannaway said WV VOAD had handled 2,366 recovery cases total.

Of those, 1,895 cases had been closed out as of Tuesday while 471 were still pending.

The remaining cases were said to be largely separate from those being handled through RISE West Virginia, though there is some overlap.

“Now that we’re working together with the RISE Program, we know they’re getting their house built with the federal dollars, but we also know that you’re going to have to have furniture to live in the house. You may have to have help getting utilities hooked up,” Gannaway said.

That’s where WV VOAD would step in with assistance.

In other instances, VOAD has picked up more cases because people did not qualify for RISE funding for any number of reasons including making too much money, having homes in the floodway or being in non-compliance with FEMA flood insurance requirements.

Among the separate RISE cases, the total number of completed cases was nearing 40 as of late November following months of administration delays.

Earlier this year, Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, West Virginia’s adjutant general, took over management of the RISE program under directions from Governor Jim Justice and, since then, Gannaway said, there’s been more collaboration on flood recovery.

At that point, “We went back through all the closed cases because we wanted to make sure that somebody wasn’t closed in that program and needed help,” Gannaway said.

“We did find people who were closed in the previous and they needed help but they didn’t qualify (for RISE assistance).”

A number of those people are now included in the number of listed open WV VOAD cases.

The most recent numbers available from RISE put the number of outstanding cases at 409 for RISE with 171 cases requiring total reconstruction, 153 cases requiring some form of rehabilitation, and 85 cases needing new mobile home unit replacements.

Since the end of September, RISE officials previously reported $8 million in federal funding had been spent on flood recovery.

Legislative auditors projected it would cost $50 million to finish the active RISE cases.

When asked Tuesday, Gannaway estimated it would take $8 million to fully complete case management on the voluntary side — separate from RISE.

However, she said there were reasons for optimism.

“It’s a collaborative effort now and I think things are moving really well because everybody’s collaborating, working together,” Gannaway told lawmakers.

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