Volunteer flood relief groups pleased with changes to RISE West Virginia

Volunteer organizations helping with recovery efforts following the June 2016 flood are pleased with changes announced in the RISE West Virginia program that is under the state Commerce Department. (WCHS, WVAH)

Volunteer groups who found themselves doing the government's job as RISE West Virginia’s problems dragged on were pleased with changes announced Monday by Gov. Jim Justice.

The groups especially were pleased with the appointment of Adjutant-General James Hoyer of the West Virginia National Guard to head the long-term flood recovery program.

Hoyer will oversee housing assistance to 2016 flood victims after complaints that residents had received no help.

"As long as it's a solution moving forward to get help to the families, we're on board with what the state wants to do,” said Jenny Gannaway, executive director of the West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. “And we'll give General Hoyer our full support and do whatever it takes to get to get this moving.”

The volunteer groups like Hoyer from past flood work. They prefer the project was not left in the state Department of Commerce, but understand federal contracts may require it to remain where it is.

Gannaway said volunteers and donors have pumped about $28 million in money, labor and goods into the June 2016 flood relief compared to a little more than a million for RISE, which has $150 million in federal dollars.

They would have been able to help more people if the state moved quicker, but felt they had to step in even if the victims would have eventually gotten that state help.

“For us, it became a moral issue to say to people ‘You’re stuck and you have to stay stuck while we wait for RISE to its thing,’ ” said Jack Lipphardt with United Methodist Flood Relief. “So, we did our best to get people out of dangerous and unsanitary situations and move forward."

The governor said give him a month and he will get RISE moving forward, too.

Many frustrated flood victims had asked for help from the faith- based volunteer flood relief group after RISE failed to make good on its promises.

The governor claimed Monday that despite what flood victims were told, none of the RISE money would have been spendable before February of this year.

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