CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) — U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart announced Wednesday there is now a federal investigation into the disaster relief for the deadly flooding in West Virginia back in 2016.
“The deadly 2016 floods were a seminal event for West Virginia," said Stuart. "Too many of our precious citizens lost their lives. Many other lives were terribly impacted. Critical infrastructure including roads, bridges, and water systems were destroyed or significantly interrupted. And too many West Virginians lost their most critical personal asset – their homes. Many lives were literally turned upside down. To this day, the future remains uncertain for too many of our friends and neighbors."
The flooding in June of 2016 killed 23 people and destroyed communities. More than two dozen schools were damaged and hundreds of people lost their homes.
Post-disaster, the federal government committed millions of taxpayer dollars to disaster relief with the intent that the assistance would help rebuild lives and rebuild communities.
"Critical federal resources through FEMA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are essential to the rebuilding process and must be used wisely, timely and legally," Stuart said in a statement.
West Virginia National Guard General James Hoyer took over the program almost a year ago with the hope of speeding things up.
However, during a committee meeting at the W.Va. State Capitol, Hoyer told legislators they've completed just 50 houses and there are 498 cases outstanding. They plan to have 300 cases under contract and make progress by the end of June.
While General Hoyer talked about the positives, many questioned the program's slow movement. Hoyer says having the capacity to complete several environmental assessments is the bulk of the problem, but he hopes people can focus on the progress they've made so far and the goal they are working towards.
"Every available dollar for disaster relief must be spent on disaster relief. Diversion, fraud, corruption or delay cannot and will not be tolerated," Stuart said. "Desperate communities and West Virginians depend on critical, limited dollars to assist in recovery. Desperate communities and West Virginians need certainty that in a future disaster intended assistance will be delivered timely and spent properly. West Virginians need to be reassured that federal law enforcement is now investigating this matter. Rest assured, my office is working with appropriate federal agencies to investigate the issues of disaster relief, and use of federal funds related to the historic 2016 floods and I can assure our citizens that any party that abused their position of authority, violated the public trust, or misused taxpayer dollars will be held accountable, if warranted.”
Check out the special report by WHSV's sister station, WSAZ, on those left behind after flooding damage: WSAZ Investigates | Flooded then Forgotten.