CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia is closing out the year with 43 homes turned over to flood victims.
That includes the first stick-built home, turned over to a Greenbrier County family on Friday. A stick-built home refers to a wooden house constructed on-site, as opposed to a modular home.
Homeowners received their keys from Gov. Jim Justice, construction contractor Appalachia Service Project and the case management team with West Virginia Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster.
That marked a milestone for helping West Virginia flood victims with long-term relief.
The West Virginia National Guard, which took over the foundering RISE program for long-term flood relief in June, released a summary of progress.
On June 5, when Gov. Jim Justice switched responsibility for the program, he promised it would start moving “at lightning speed.”
“Give us a month and watch what happens,” Justice said.
Progress hasn’t moved quite as fast as that, but the situation has improved.
In late June, a report from the Legislative Auditor concluded the RISE West Virginia program had provided no one with housing, two years after the devastating 2016 flood.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which had approved $150 million in long-term disaster relief funds, called West Virginia a “slow spender,” an official designation.
In late November, West Virginia came off that list.
West Virginia is now listed as “on pace.”
As of Dec. 1, West Virginia still had $138,654,711 of the $149,875,000 available from HUD.
In November, West Virginia had $138,743,064 on hand. In October, West Virginia still had $146,656,483 on hand.
So, to-date, $11.4 million of the available money has been spent.
The big difference to get West Virginia off the slow-spender list was likely a big check.
This fall, 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.
There’s still plenty of work to be done.
West Virginia National Guard teams have identified 406 cases of people who still need long-term housing.
Of those, 170 cases require total reconstruction, 153 cases require some form of rehabilitation, and 83 cases require new mobile home unit replacement.
Speaking to lawmakers last month, Adjutant General James Hoyer acknowledged just how much more work remains.
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.