On Thursday the Joint Legislative Committee on Flooding used the Government and Finance committees subpoena power to get answers on the RISE WV program.
Former WV Development Office Employee and Senior RISE official, Mary Jo Thompson faced questions from the committee. The meeting also heard from RISE WV Program Specialist, Andrew Milhallik, Former WV Development Office employee Josh Jarrell and the Governor’s Office Chief Counsel Brian Abraham.
Thompson was in the hot seat the longest, facing questions on why she resigned before the last committee meeting and what caused the delay in the RISE WV project. The answers from Thompson and others didn’t satisfy the committee.
“If I had a dime for every excuse thrown out today I could build a couple of homes myself,” said Del. Kayla Kessinger.
The controversial “RISE West Virginia” flood relief program is back before the legislature.
the joint house-senate committee on flooding convenes again at 9:00 Thursday morning. Members are trying to find out why millions of dollars in federal aid under the RISE program was never handed out to many victims of the 2016 floods. The Department of Commerce was managing “RISE” but a number of key employees have resigned. One has now been subpoenaed to testify before the committee Thursday.
“Of course, very much outraged. It’s just unconscionable that we’ve allowed some of our citizens to languish in agony when we have these dollars to spend and help is available,” said State Sen. Ed Gaunch, Co-chair, (R) Joint Flooding Committee.
Because of the problems at RISE, other agencies and volunteer groups had to jump in to help.
“Even folks that were in the RISE program, we’ve gone ahead and started assisting them, as best we can with what funding we have. And that’s the shame of it really, is that a lot of these organizations have limited funding,” said Susan Jack, of the Greater Kanawha Long-Term Recovery Committee.
The RISE West Virginia Program is now under the direction of General James Hoyer and the West Virginia National Guard. They are already reporting progress on getting aid to families.
“Of course West Virginia is a flood prone state and many are hoping the problem with the flood relief programs are fixed, before the next disaster hits,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.