Flood victims deserve better

One suspects West Virginia legislators looking into delays in helping victims of 2016 floods in many counties knew one of the answers to their questions before they were even asked.

Why, more than six months after federal officials approved nearly $150 million for flood victims, had the state handed out less than $1.2 million?

Red tape. The bureaucracy. Jumping through government agency hoops. The swamp. Call it what you will — but what happened was wrong.

Last week, lawmakers heard from a former Department of Commerce official involved in the RISE West Virginia program. RISE was intended as the channel through which flood relief money would flow.

“I believe in my heart I pushed as hard as I possibly could,” said Mary Jo Thompson, who resigned from the commerce agency in June. But, she added, “These are (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) compliant regulations, and you can only push so far.”

One delay in getting money to those who lost homes in the floods was conducting environmental assessments on their properties, Thompson said.

That was so even though the state had been granted a waiver by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Yes, environmental assessments, on properties where buildings had stood for years, even generations, before the 2016 floods.

How much other red tape has delayed getting help to the flood victims? And what — surely there is something — can be done about it?

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