Flood Relief

State using money quickly

While some local officials in West Virginia seem to be all too eager to spend disaster relief money illegally, the state cannot seem to use it quickly enough.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin complained that the federal government is dragging its feet in releasing more than $106 million in disaster relief funds earmarked for West Virginia.

Frankly, that is the first we’d heard of it. So our reporter asked some questions and learned, in effect, that there’s no rush on the $106 million. West Virginia officials can’t seem to spend the more than $149 million already available for projects to help victims of flooding in 2016.

At about this time last year, we reported the state had been placed on a “slow spender” list at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, because of delays in utilizing the $149 million.

A program called RISE West Virginia had been created within the state Commerce Department to administer the program. Six months after being cleared to begin recovery projects, RISE had spent just a few million dollars.

Meanwhile, hundreds of flood victims were not being helped.

Gov. Jim Justice removed RISE from the commerce agency and turned it over to the West Virginia National Guard, which seemed to be an improvement.

But last week, we learned that only about 9 percent of the $149 million has been used. West Virginia is back on HUD’s “slow spender” list.

How is this possible?

State government seems to be very efficient in spending West Virginia taxpayers’ money for any number of purposes. But let Washington drop a quarter-billion dollars on us to assist people who really need help — and Charleston can’t figure out how to spend it?

This needs to be corrected — right away.