Baldwin says American Rescue funds can be used for flood demolitions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state may have a new source of federal funds to take care of properties yet to be demolished following the June 2016 flood.

Stephen Baldwin

State Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, told members of the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding that final guidance from the U.S. Department of Treasury on American Rescue Plan Act funds says the money can be used for demolitions.

“That’s very good news,” Baldwin said.

He then made a motion to create a subcommittee of the Committee on Flooding that would create a proposal to seek some of the state’s allocation to finish the work.

“I think there are projects in each of our districts that would fall under this and be positively affected by it,” Baldwin said.

State government received $677 million in ARPA funds in May after Congress passed the bill aimed to help states as they continue to cope with the pandemic. West Virginia will receive a total allocation of $1.355 billion.

The state has struggled with the current demolition program through the U.S. Office of Housing and Urban Development. There was discussion before the flood committee last month about an ongoing review and investigation.

Baldwin said Monday there’s not enough money in the current program to meet all of the demolition needs. He said American Rescue funds would be a big help.

“It’s around $6 million. There are projects that can’t continue because we don’t have the funds under that program to do all those demolitions,” Baldwin said.

Housing projects

The flood committee also got an update Monday on the housing projects related to the 2016 flood.

Jennifer Ferrell

“We are down to the 32 projects left, 22 of those are in construction. We’re hoping by spring of this year those will be completed,” Jennifer Ferrell, director of the Community Advancement and Development division in the West Virginia Development Office, told the committee.

She said 10 properties are in acquisition and will take a little longer. Farrell said four of those sites cannot be rebuilt on their current footprint and the program has to find a government entity to take over the property before funds can be spent on an acceptable site.

Ferrell said bridge construction won’t be done until the end of this year.

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