Snail’s Pace

Private charities offered flood aid faster than state

How is it that while state officials were sitting on nearly $150 million in federal funding meant to help victims of 2016 flooding in West Virginia, private charities were getting results? Perhaps state legislators looking into the RISE scandal should ask that question.

Lawmakers are investigating what happened with RISE, which last summer and fall was informed the federal government would provide nearly $150 million for flood victims. By late winter, however, just $1.1 million had been doled out.

That prompted Gov. Jim Justice to fire state Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, order a probe of how his agency handled the RISE project, and say that millions of dollars were being saved by correcting missteps, including improper spending, in the RISE program. Now it is being handled by the West Virginia National Guard, which seems to be moving briskly to assist flood victims.

But as we reported, while the Commerce Department was dithering, private charities were helping. Just one, Catholic Charities, reported a few weeks ago it had aided more than 1,000 flood victims, handing out nearly $700,000 to 318 households. Other charities, including protestant church groups, also have excellent records.

West Virginia’s United Methodist Disaster Recovery fund already has collected more than $3.3 million to help flood victims. It has multiple initiatives in progress, including sending teams of volunteers to help with the hard, physical work of recovery.

No wonder that in February, the Methodists complained in writing about RISE.

“I don’t know where the brokenness is, but obviously, something is broken,” complained Jack Lipphardt, director of West Virginia United Methodist Disaster Recovery.

Compared to the speed and efficiency with which private charities responded to flood victims’ needs, RISE moved at a snail’s pace. Perhaps state officials should be looking into how churches and other groups made that happen.

Maybe — just maybe — the bureaucrats could learn a thing or two.