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West Virginia delays big step in drawing down $106 million in flood mitigation money

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia officials have asked for a six-month delay in the first big step toward drawing down an additional $106 million in federal flood mitigation dollars.

Glenn Jeffries

“You just need more time to put everything in process?” asked Senator Glenn Jeffries, D-Putnam.

Jennifer Ferrell, community development manager in the state Development Office, responded that the money was part of a broader congressional allocation to multiple states and West Virginia was in the first batch to be eligible.

So West Virginia wasn’t quite ready.

Another reason was to continue focus on providing houses through West Virginia RISE. That effort has been under scrutiny for the pace of providing homes for hundreds of victims of a major flood three years ago.

“Our leadership were trying to work on our housing and get that through,” Ferrell told legislators.

“After discussions with leadership and then with HUD, they thought it was best to get this extension to give us more time to reach out to everybody as we continue to move our housing program forward.”

Jennifer Ferrell

Ferrell was speaking before the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding.

The money will go for mitigation and resilience activities through the Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program.

This will be in addition to the $149,875,000 in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief money that West Virginia has drawn down already from HUD as an outcome of the devastating flood of June 23, 2016.

Through the first of this month, West Virginia has spent about $20 million of that original grant and continues to be labeled a slow spender, a designation that reflects the pace toward spending down the grant.

The additional money represents the first time HUD has provided mitigation grant funding this way, Ferrell said. West Virginia could use the funding to head off the effects of future funding.

On August 23, HUD put out the Federal Registration notice for the requirements to use the money.

West Virginia was supposed to provide an Action Plan by Feb. 3, but asked for a six-month delay to August 3.

“We have received a verbal approval from HUD for that,” Ferrell said.

There are steps leading up to submission of the Action Plan, including an implementation plan and a capacity assessment.

Once the Action Plan can be written, it will be posted on the West Virginia RISE website for public comment before being submitted to HUD for review.

More steps, such as environmental assessments for infrastructure projects, would come before the money can be drawn down for use.

The money may be used for planning, infrastructure, housing or to match other federal grants.

Funding would go to the 12 counties hurt by the enormous floods of 2016.

Fifty percent has to benefit the most affected counties of Clay, Greenbrier, Kanawha and and Nicholas, Ferrell said. And 50 percent has to benefit low to moderate income communities.

West Virginia has 12 years to spend the money.

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