Letter from Delegate Tim Armstead, Speaker of the W.Va. House of Delegates:
The Honorable Earl Ray Tomblin
State of West Virginia
Charleston, West Virginia 25305
Dear Gov. Tomblin:
As you know, the past two and a half weeks have been one of the most challenging times ever faced by the people of the Elk River area of Kanawha County. The Elk River finally crested at the highest depth on record, exceeding the prior record set in 1888.
The work performed by the National Guard, our fire departments and first responders has truly been remarkable. In addition, thousands of volunteers, churches, agencies and organizations have stepped up to assist our citizens in the aftermath of this disaster.
Due to the magnitude of the flooding and based on conversations with members of your staff, I would anticipate that you will likely call the Legislature into session later this year to appropriate Revenue Shortfall funding to assist in the recovery efforts.
There are obviously a number of agencies and programs designed to assist the residents of the areas affected by the flooding in rebuilding their lives, and I certainly support including additional state support to help our residents move forward from this terrible tragedy. However, as I have spoken with several residents of the Elkview and Clendenin areas who either own small businesses devastated by the flooding or are employed by such businesses, it has become increasingly evident that there are limited programs and options to assist them in reopening their doors.
If we are to restore our communities ravaged by this disaster, we will need to ensure that not only do our citizens have the opportunity to rebuild their homes, schools and churches, but to also rebuild the small businesses who provide jobs and supply our people with much needed products and services.
In 2006, following flooding in my area, I introduced House Bill 2788 to establish a Disaster Recovery Fund, the purpose of which was to provide grants to assist small businesses in rebuilding after flooding or other natural disasters. The funding for those purposes would have come from excess funds remaining from the sale of bonds for economic development projects related to the Economic Development legislation adopted during the Wise Administration. While House Bill 2788 was not enacted and the excess bond funding has since been otherwise redirected, the need for assistance to businesses devastated by flooding nonetheless remains.
If, in fact, the Legislature is called into a Special Session relating to the flooding, I respectfully ask that you consider including in the call for such session legislation to establish a Disaster Recovery Fund, or designate funding in some other manner, to assist the small businesses affected by the flooding. I would suggest that such funding be designated either from existing funds in the State’s Development Office, funding from the Revenue Shortfall Fund, or funds existing in other related accounts. Without such assistance, I fear that many of these businesses will be unable to open their doors and many of our fellow West Virginians will be unemployed.
Having seen the devastation in the Elk River communities, as well as that suffered in other parts of West Virginia, I am sure you will agree that rebuilding the small businesses that employ so many residents in the affected areas will be an integral part of the restoration of those communities. I hope that you will consider my request that funding be set aside to assist these businesses and their employees, and I look forward to working with you to help all West Virginians recover from last month’s devastating floods.