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Winter weather contributed to return to ‘slow spender’ list on flood relief, Hoyer says

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s return to the “slow spender” list for flood relief can be attributed to winter weather, according to the adjutant general of the state National Guard.

The list is meant to show whether states are keeping an appropriate pace to close out grant funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Of the $149,875,000 that West Virginia had available, the state still has $136,601,297 left.

The list provides an average of spending over three months.

James Hoyer

“For West Virginia, our recent 3-month average was $603,824, which was largely due in part to significant weather conditions that limited our ability to complete construction projects in an expedited manner,” Hoyer stated in a weekly update about progress on providing relief from the 2016 flood.

West Virginia has mostly been on the “slow spender” list ever since it gained access to $150 million in Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Relief through HUD on Feb. 20, 2018.

Hoyer was placed in charge of all of West Virginia’s long-term flood relief last June 4 after complaints about the pace of recovery. Gov. Jim Justice promised “we’re going to fix it in a way that things move at light speed compared to how they’re moving before.”

West Virginia got off the slow spender list last November after paying a $6.7 million check to close out a contract with the consulting firm Horne LLP. That still accounts for about a third of the total West Virginia has spent of the money available from HUD.

To be considered “on pace,” West Virginia would now need to spend greater than the monthly amount required to fully use the grant by the target closeout date.

Hoyer suggested the pace will pick up now.

“We expect the spending for the RISE program to increase exponentially as weather has cleared and we are starting the bridge and slum and blight programs this month,” he stated.

“There will also be increases throughout for our mobile home units, rehabilitations and reconstruction projects. It is anticipated that with this progress, the RISE program will be considered ‘on pace’ with the June report from HUD.”

He suggested the spending on flood relief may not be consistent.

“As the RISE program continues to move forward, there may be times when the spending will ebb and flow, placing us on and off the ‘slow spender’ designation by HUD,” Hoyer stated.

“Since the West Virginia National Guard took over in June under the direction of Gov. Justice, there have been numerous staffing and internal processes and procedures implemented to ensure the RISE program is moving forward at a rapid pace.”

West Virginia has completed 49 housing cases so far under RISE, according to this week’s update from Hoyer.

That leaves the number of outstanding Housing Program cases at 476 this week.

Of those, 244 cases require total reconstruction, 105 cases require some form of rehabilitation actions, and 113 cases require new mobile home replacement, while 12 cases are awaiting initial project type.

Kent Carper

In a telephone interview this week, Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper said he sees progress under Hoyer.

Carper said Hoyer was handed a near-impossible task.

“Prior to General Hoyer, it was a case of inexcusable neglect,” Carper said. “It’s just not fair when he’s only had this little amount of time to clean up that morass that he inherited.”

He added, “The individual now in charge of this program has done everything humanly possible to address this situation.”

Paula Brown

Paula Brown, the deputy director of Greenbrier County’s Office of Emergency Services, praised the work of volunteer and faith-based groups in helping residents get back on their feet.

“Thank God the faith-based groups and VOAD groups came in and provided the support they did,” Brown said in a telephone interview.

“Without them, we wouldn’t be recovered to where we are today.”

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