Getting Answers On RISE Failure

Christmas was good in the Greenbrier County home of Grace Duncan and John Harris and their family. They should not have had to wait that long for their big day.

On Dec. 22, amid much fanfare, the family received the keys to their new home from Gov. Jim Justice. The home was constructed through the RISE West Virginia program, established to help victims of 2016 flooding.

Along with many others who lost homes during that disaster, the Duncan/Harris family should have gotten help much sooner. But the RISE initiative was a wreck early last year, when Justice pulled it out of the state Commerce Department and instructed the West Virginia National Guard to get it back on track.

State Adjutant Gen. James Hoyer noted on Dec. 22 that as of that date, 43 flood victims’ cases had been completed and another 42 had been given mobile homes as replacements for dwellings. Another 406 cases were outstanding, Hoyer added.

West Virginians know what went wrong with RISE under the Commerce Department. Officials there were so slow in spending $150 million in federal flood aid that the Federal Emergency Management Agency expressed concern. The state did not make use of federal funds that could have been used to speed up the process. Some state officials who should have been made aware of FEMA concern were kept in the dark. Illegal contracts were awarded to a consultant.

But we still do not have a clear picture of why the RISE program was allowed to become something of a disaster itself.

State legislators, who begin their 60-day regular session this week, should insist on answers to that question.

Without knowing what was handled improperly and who was responsible for that, how can West Virginians have any confidence that other state government programs are being administered honestly and effectively?

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