Relief Funds: Money must be managed properly this time

West Virginia will receive $106 million more in federal disaster relief funds, because of floods that devastated some communities in 2016, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced last week.

Let’s get it right this time. It has been three years, and we have given scant reason for the feds to believe we can be trusted with the money we send, or for those affected by the flooding to believe real help will ever be on its way.

The history of how federal funding is handled in our state has been, in a word, sordid during the past few years. Flood victims have had to wait too long for the state to use the money to help them. Some of it has been misused, perhaps criminally.

To their credit, federal officials have been patient over delays and mismanagement. But at some point, their tolerance will run out — and they will begin to say “no” when we ask for help. Certainly they should give requests greater scrutiny, as evidenced by the Jimmy Gianato-led West Virginia Emergency Operations Center continuing for nine months to pretend it was still housed in a moldy Capitol basement (rather than the West Virginia National Guard headquarters to which it had been moved) purely in an attempt to receive another $5 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency money.

That request, made in March 2018, was finally withdrawn earlier this month. The move out of the basement happened in July 2018.

So Gov. Jim Justice needs to make it clear heads will roll if the $106 million is not managed honestly and efficiently. And he should give some reason to believe he is serious.

Our fellow West Virginians need help. We have money to assist them. Why can’t we just do that without fear that greed, fraud and corruption will — again — be the order of the day?

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