CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The leader of West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active In Disaster is confident VOAD will be able to address most of its remaining housing cases from the 2016 Flood before disaster case management grant funding runs out this June.
“I am very happy with what the voluntary agencies were able to accomplish in this short period of time. We have rehabbed, rebuilt or replaced almost 2,200 homes for families,” said Jenny Gannaway, executive director of West Virginia VOAD.
“I really appreciate all the people, especially within the state VOAD, that stepped up and tried to help families get back into their homes.”
As of March 21, she said VOAD — which relies on donated dollars and labor — still had 138 active cases involving individuals or families with housing needs.
Of those, 88 were funded projects with volunteers on the ground either rebuilding homes or placing mobile homes.
A total of 31 were funded and awaiting volunteer help with projected completion dates in April.
The nearly 20 other remaining cases could get to that point in April or May, said Gannaway.
If that doesn’t happen, cases will be referred to either United Methodist Disaster Relief or Greenbrier Long-Term Recovery once grant funding for VOAD’s 22 case managers and staff comes to an end.
A one-year grant extension runs through the end of this June.
“We didn’t want to close out the disaster case management program grant without having resources to refer families to if they do not qualify for the federal funding (from RISE),” Gannaway explained.
In general, VOAD’s housing cases involve people who do not qualify for RISE or have needs that go beyond what RISE can provide.
RISE is the separate long-term flood recovery program funded with grant money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
It was plagued with delays before a takeover last year under Maj. General James Hoyer, West Virginia’s adjutant general.
Earlier this month, he reported RISE had completed 47 cases with 402 cases still outstanding.
Of those, 169 required total reconstruction, 153 needed some form of rehabilitation and 80 were for new mobile homes.
VOAD is now involved in those cases through a cooperative effort Hoyer oversaw after a leadership change from Governor Jim Justice.
“We’ve got a good team working together,” said Gannaway who cited VOAD’s organizations, disaster case management, the state Department of Commerce which oversees the HUD funding and the West Virginia National Guard for assistance with construction.
Gannaway said the RISE numbers don’t tell the full story.
Beyond the 47 completed cases, “There’s a lot more that’s already in the construction and in the process of being completed,” she told MetroNews.
“I think you’re going to see numbers start to go up fairly quick now that the weather’s starting to get better.”
Every week, she said, 10 to 12 housing agreements were being signed which indicates a home rebuilding or rehab project has completed a list of requirements to get to the point of construction.
The work of VOAD and RISE with housing are separate from efforts involving the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rebuild flooded schools, including Bridge-Clendenin Elementary School and Herbert Hoover High School in northern Kanawha County.
This summer marks three years since the flood.
On June 23, 2016, heavy rain caused flash flooding that claimed 23 lives and devastated entire communities in central and southeastern West Virginia.
With what could be a wet spring underway, Gannaway admitted she was concerned about the potential for more flooding in the Mountain State after a soggy winter in many areas.
“2016 taught us all something and we’ve actually worked really hard to get to a point where we are a little bit better (with disaster response) than we were then,” she said.
“Our best resource is each other.”