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House Passes Bill To Speed Up Post-Disaster Construction Process

Downtown Richwood, WV, at dawn after hours of heavy rain flooded the little town.
Kara Lofton
West Virginia Public Broadcasting file photo
Downtown Richwood, WV, at dawn after hours of heavy rain flooded the little town.

The West Virginia House of Delegates unanimously passed a bill Tuesday, Jan. 21, from members of its interim committee on flooding, hoping to speed up the process for rebuilding homes after natural disasters. 

House Bill 4130 from delegates Dean Jeffries, R-Kanawha, and Caleb Hanna, R-Nicholas, amends a part of state code making it difficult for the state to hire contractors for multiple approved construction projects at once. 

Hanna and Jeffries serve on the joint House and Senate flood committee  that was formed following flooding in 2016 that devastated many communities in southern West Virginia. A lot of the reconstruction the group deals with now is related to the RISE program, which uses federal money to rebuild some of the thousands of structures that the flood destroyed.

The National Guard has been in charge of the RISE program since Gov. Jim Justice asked then-Secretary of Commerce Woody Thrasher, who used to lead the program, to resign in 2018. 

According to an update from the Guard on Friday, Jan. 17, there were 108 homes that had been completely rebuilt. There are 67 homes under construction now by four different contractors.

RISE covers 376 cases total. There are 88 left waiting on bids, or they’re being assessed. 

The West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD), meanwhile, works with the cases that the National Guard has deemed ineligible. According to the National Guard, VOAD has reviewed 650 cases and they’ve helped the National Guard accept or re-open 60 of them. 

Representatives from VOAD will be at City National Bank in Rainelle 10 a.m. Jan. 22, at and White Sulphur Springs City Hall at 2 p.m.

They’ll be at the Risen Lord Catholic Church, in Maysel, at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 23, and at the Richwood Public Library at 10 a.m. on Jan. 24.

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.

Correction: An earlier version of this article listed the wrong political parties for delegates Dean Jeffries and Caleb Hanna. Both are members of the Republican party. 

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