CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — We were the first to tell you about problems with the RISE WV flood recovery program and we have been sharing the stories of people still dealing with the aftermath of the 2016 flood who are in need of help. Some are still living in flood-damaged homes. Others who were hit by the high water have been turned down for assistance.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice conducted a news conference Monday, surrounded by the new team he has put in place to get the RISE West Virginia flood recovery moving.
Justice overhauled the relief effort in charge of nearly $150 million in federal money designed to fix single-family homes and rental units damaged or destroyed in the June 2016 flood.
Justice said a restructuring of the Commerce Department, including terminations, is underway.
Saying the state's Commerce Department has dropped the ball, Governor Jim Justice said he is turning the RISE WV flood recovery effort over to the state's top military officer.
"General Hoyer, I have asked him to fill in and take over all of the flood relief duties effective today," Governor Justice said.
Justice said it is inexcusable that the people hit by the high waters of June 2016 are still waiting for assistance. However, he said RISE is guilty of much more than just being slow to help.
Justice said he identified a problem with a change order to Horne LLP, the contractor hired to help with the RISE program. Justice said he canceled a 1$7 million change order which would have benefited Horne. Instead, Justice said the contractor will now be paid between $9 million and $10 million, with $7 million to $8 million funneling back into flood relief.
"A change order had been requested for $17 million. $17 million dollars. And I said what in the world are we talking about here?" Justice said.
While Justice is looking for waste and preparing to lay waste to some administration staffers in the Commerce Department, General Hoyer said the directive from Justice is clear, help people now.
"Number one priority," Hoyer said. "Identify how many people are out there still have housing needs from the 2016 flood, and get the process moving faster to address those needs."
The iTeam has learned that some of the houses prepared and given away by RISE West Virginia went to people who did not sustain direct flood damage to their homes. Hoyer said while that is allowed in some cases, he is going to focus on people who were hit hard where they lived.
"We're going to put the priority on taking care of the people that were impacted by the 2016 flood," Hoyer said.
Justice said to give him a month and see the difference the new RISE West Virginia will make.
We will continue telling you stories of people in desperate need of help to recover from the 2016 flood and we will get their information to RISE West Virginia. We will also check back in a month to see the progress Governor Justice's new team has made.