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Two years later: Flood victims wonder where Rise WV aid is

The Eyewitness News iTeam shines a light on the state program – Rise West Virginia – that victims say failed them. (WCHS/WVAH)

It's been nearly two years since the deadly flooding of June 2016.

In the aftermath of that disaster, millions of dollars in donations poured into the state and last august, Gov. Jim Justice announced the formation of the Rise West Virginia Disaster Recovery Program, but many people are still in need.

RISE WV was introduced as a way to repair and reconstruct single family homes and rental units which were damaged in June of 2016.

But many disaster victims say instead it's been a bureaucratic nightmare and nearly two years after the high water receded, they are no closer to having their lives put back together.

“Please help us. I beg you, Mr. Jim Justice. Something needs to be done fast and immediate because one week to a flood victim is a month. And it's the truth, I've been fighting this for a year. It took them almost 80 days just to go over my receipts. Now if they do that to every person out here, you know how long this is going to take?” Mike Cahill, of Procious said.

Cahill said he's been wrestling with RISE WV for months. He said the organization cites help he received from FEMA as a stumbling block to it stepping in and assisting with his reconstruction efforts, after his family home was destroyed by high water.

“I got proof that they accept receipts from one person, don't accept the same receipt from another. A person that never got water in their house gets a whole new trailer and septic, new everything. But somebody who lost everything due to the flood, I'm fighting tooth and nail,” Cahill said.

Cahill said RISE WV's representatives have been anything but the helpful agents Justice promised to allow flood victims to get back on their feet and the path of recovery.

“My experience with RISE has been so distasteful. They dehumanize you. They treat you like a criminal, talk to you like a criminal. They won't even leave their building to come out and look at nothing, it's been totally appalling. And if you talk to everybody else, it's not like I'm an angry person. They're doing it to everybody,” Cahill said.

Cahill is not alone in his complaints about the program. Clay County's Jennifer Lively was turned down by RISE WV for assistance, even though she said water sweeping down from the mountaintop moved her mobile home from its foundation and into the mud.

“It took all of the bricks and sunk them into the ground and put our trailer back down on the solid ground,” Jennifer Lively of Bickmore said.

But, the agency did reach out to her father who lives next door. He just needed a leaky roof repaired, but RISE WV went a different way.

February the 27 they came in and I asked them to put me a metal roof on. They said the trailer was too old and so they tore it down. And we've been living in a camper across the road over there ever since. You sit back and you wait and you sit back and wait and wait and wait, you know. Nothing's getting done,” Bobby Schoolcraft of Bickmore said.

While her father has at least the hope of help and finally moving into his new home, Lively said six children will be living in this trailer this summer and that two of them are disabled. She says RISE WV cut off all communication with her after they turned down her plea for help.

“We're very, very distraught about everything. We can't keep our floors up, I mean our roof leaks and six kids, it's hard to deal with,” Lively said.

“I'd like for somebody to take over that knows what they was doing, and you know, get everything done that's supposed to be done,” Schoolcraft said.

What needs to happen?

“My personal opinion? Send RISE to Puerto Rico, I hear they need help. Get them out of the state of West Virginia because they're not helping nobody. They're here to collect a paycheck. When you talk to them that's the attitude you get,” Cahill said.

We reached out to the governor's office to ask about RISE WV's performance. We heard nothing back. We also asked to talked with a representative of the agency on camera. Instead, they sent us an email statement which reads in part, that some procurement contracts entered into by the Department of Commerce were defective. So they put the entire operation on pause until they could fix things. They say they've now reached a resolution and that the RISE program will be restarting its construction projects soon.

We will see. We'll also stay on this story and bring you more reports in the coming weeks.

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