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Flood Recovery Delay Intolerable

Among the heroes of the COVID-19 epidemic in West Virginia are the men and women of the state’s National Guard. Many have worked tirelessly at great sacrifice to themselves and their families, sometimes risking their own health to aid fellow Mountain State residents.

They have been busy on another front, too, in a seemingly endless war against bureaucracy. June 23 will mark the fourth anniversary of it.

On that date in 2016, terrible flooding struck several counties in southern West Virginia. Hundreds of families’ homes were destroyed or damaged severely. Many public buildings, including some schools, were affected, too. Some roads and bridges required costly repairs.

Nearly $150 million in federal relief money was provided to help the flood victims recover. As of March 1, the most recent date of an accounting of the money, less than $25 million had been spent.

After a fiasco at the Department of Commerce in handling the recovery process, the RISE initiative was turned over to the National Guard. Last week, Adjutant Gen. James Hoyer reported that at last, all the homes for which help was approved have been put into the process leading toward awarding of contracts for repairs or replacements.

Hoyer said that of 258 active cases the Guard is handling, 171 homes are considered completed.

Four years after their homes were destroyed or made uninhabitable, some of our fellow West Virginians are still waiting for help. Even though they may be in the contracting pipeline, some will have to wait months more for home repairs or replacements.

Don’t blame the National Guard. Its members are doing the best they can, in the face of red tape elsewhere in government.

No doubt some flood victims consider that, though COVID-19 is bad, it is not the worst outbreak with which they have had to cope. Far worse is the epidemic of bureaucracy that has held up their recovery from the 2016 floods.

Longtime West Virginia residents know there will be another natural disaster in our state. It is only a question of time.

Perhaps we should start now planning for the recovery process.

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