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Letter from state officials outlines temporary policy targeting flood relief

(WSAZ)
Published: Jun. 5, 2019 at 6:07 PM EDT
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It's been nearly three years to the day since homes and schools were wiped out in the June 2016 floods.

A recent

was opened into the use of federal funds for flood relief, and several people have questioned the

over the years.

Within the last week, state officials with the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management sent a letter outlining a temporary policy that will reorganize the hazard mitigation program and put housing as a top priority. The hazard mitigation program is funded by FEMA, and its purpose is to provide relief to flood victims through buyouts, elevating homes in flood zones and relocating houses.

Several flood victims, like Connie Sloan, have not received any of the money they so desperately need. Sloan now pays rent on the new home she was forced to buy when she lost everything, while still paying a mortgage on the property that was flooded in Elkview.

Kanawha County arranged to have her home demolished after she applied for the FEMA buyout program.

"There's not a lot of words I can say. It's frustrating," Sloan said.

The letter that went out to county officials addressed the Emergency Operations Center project that was cancelled. The project was supposed to cost around $5 million, but now that money will go to those still waiting on relief.

According to DHESM, the state needs an extra $21 million to complete projects on the oversubscribed list, but they are not guaranteed this money in any way.

The letter gave counties the option to voluntarily cancel or withdraw applications for flood related infrastructure projects, like bridge and sewer repairs, in hopes that money can be re-allocated to housing. Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said the county won't be cancelling any projects.

"We're not going to withdraw any applicants," Carper said. "We're going to insist on answers for everyone."

The plan also involves identifying housing and infrastructure projects that do not qualify for hazard mitigation funding and notifying those applicants. They will also withdraw applications that miss deadlines.

After sifting through applications, the state plans to have a master list of the projects, and the status of each one, by June 20. Then, they will submit that list to the legislature by July 1.

"This is very good news, very good news," Carper said. He said the flood victims have been waiting for too long. However, those victims remain cautious.

"I'm very skeptical," Sloan said.