RISE: Lawmakers must keep pressure on program
In 2016, West Virginians experienced a historic flood that devastated homes and communities. Now, more than five years later, the RISE West Virginia program has completed … 84 percent of the houses and projects it promised it would complete to help families recover.
Jennifer Ferrell, director of community advancement and development for the state, said through the end of August, 329 housing projects had been completed, out of the nearly 400 homes washed out or severely damaged half a decade ago. So far, the state has spent nearly $75 million on the effort. (And other floods and natural disasters have wreaked havoc during that time.)
“We feel good that we’re still on our progress for the end of the year,” said Ferrell, according to another media outlet. She was speaking before the Joint Legislative Committee on Funding during interim meetings over the weekend.
Anyone who has had any experience with bureaucratese knows to take “we feel good that we’re still on our progress” with a grain of salt. There are still 61 housing projects remaining. They are reportedly under contract, but only 46 have actually received official notice to proceed and are under construction. Ferrell said there are 15 projects for which property was determined to be unsafe for restoration and which require the acquisition of land.
Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, said RISE has “made tremendous progress over the last few years.” That is true, to some degree, but still pastes a positive label on the reality that the program had to scramble to make up lost time to begin with … and still has a considerable amount of work to do for West Virginia families.
Winter is on its way. Lawmakers must not let up pressure on RISE administrators.