WASHINGTON (WCHS/WVAH) — Ben Carson, the Secretary for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development said he was surprised when West Virginia put the RISE West Virginia Flood Recovery Program on pause earlier this year.
Eyewitness News reporter Kennie Bass, who first revealed the issues with the program, traveled to the nation's capital to talk with Carson, who said he's taking steps to cut through HUD's red tape to speed up the process of helping flood victims.
Carson said he's working to cut through layers of bureaucracy to make sure victims of West Virginia's 2016 flood get the help they need.
“Well, what we're doing immediately is offering waivers and trying to eliminate some of the regulatory hurdles that have prevented things from happening in the past,” Carson said.
Carson said his department was caught off-guard when it found out the RISE West Virginia Flood Recovery Program had been put on pause earlier this year to examine a change order concerning a contractor's deal.
But HUD wasn't contacted?
“No, we didn't know about that,” Carson said.
Carson said open lines of communication between HUD and the people overseeing RISE West Virginia are critically important to make sure the program accomplishes its mission. He's directing more federal resources to the state to try and make the process as smooth as possible.
“In West Virginia, you know we didn't have a dedicated Community Development Block Grant person. So, we're in the process of putting a dedicated person in there now for that purpose to work directly with the people who are distributing the funds to see if we can facilitate much faster distribution,” Carson said.
Carson said the nearly $150 million provided by HUD does no good sitting in an account. He wants the money distributed to the people damaged by the storm and high water.
“You are dealing with the taxpayers hard-earned money and you want to make sure that it is used for the purposes, and what's happened in many cases is people are so concerned about it not going the right place that it doesn't go anyplace. So, there is give and take there,” Carson said.
Carson said it will take a few weeks to get the Community Development Block Grant specialist operating in West Virginia to help with flood relief.