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Legislative leaders call for review of RISE West Virginia program

Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) and House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) have formally requested that the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding reexamine the RISE West Virginia program. (Department of Commerce)

Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, have formally requested that the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding re-examine the RISE West Virginia program.

In a letter sent to the committee, Carmichael and Armstead said many questions and concerns have arisen regarding the management of the West Virginia RISE program, contracts awarded by the program and use of funding the program is charged with administering.

"I am sure you will agree that flood survivors who are awaiting assistance, as well as the taxpayers, want to ensure that we obtain answers to these questions," the letter said. "We are, therefore, requesting the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding hold one of more public meetings to examine the management of the West Virginia RISE program at the earliest opportunity."

Read the complete letter here:

This comes on the heels of an Eyewitness News iTeam investigation into questions swirling about West Virginia’s flood recovery program.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said Wednesday he wants a review of LLP/RISE WV, which was contracted by the state Department of Commerce to assist those affected by the June 2016 flood.

“I am completely dissatisfied with the performance of Horne, LLP aka RISE WV and the efforts they have made to help the citizens of Kanawha County that were affected by the flooding that occurred two years ago,” Carper said in a news release. “These citizens deserve to be helped so they can have their homes back.”

Our iTeam investigation found that 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.

On Tuesday, several top lawmakers, including Sen. Ed Gaunch, R-Kanawha, and Armstead, said the program has failed those who needed it most.

In Kanawha County, at least 288 residents who were affected by the floods have requested assistance from RISE WVA and have not been approved for assistance, the news release from the Kanawha County Commission said. The Kanawha County Planning Office has been attempting to obtain information from Rise WV regarding the applications and were told the information could not be shared with the county’s Planning Office.

“I want answers. I believe the Legislature and the Legislative Auditor’s Office should consider this matter and determine if RISE WV has been paid for services they have actually performed,” Carper said.

Carper commended members of the Legislature who have raised issues about the RISE WV program.

“Senator Gaunch, Senator Ferns, Speaker Armstead and others, and I stand with them and believe a complete inquiry needs to be completed,” Carper said.

Below is a news release the Kanawha Commission's news release and copies of letters Carper has sent to officials calling for the legislative review:

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