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WV House passes $85 million flood-relief bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Legislators opened the second special session of the year Sunday evening with one item to address: Appropriating a total of $85 million of state funds to assure the state can draw down federal disaster recovery funds to cover more than $339 million of estimated expenses needed to recover from severe flooding June 23 in central and southeastern West Virginia.

The House of Delegates passed the supplemental appropriation bill (HB 201) 92-1 after about 20 minutes in session, with the Senate expected to give its approval when it reconvenes at 11 a.m. today. Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, voted no.

In the House, Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, left the podium to speak about the flooding, which damaged his house in Elkview and devastated nearby Clendenin.

“The devastation has just been hard to put in words in a lot of these areas,” he said, adding, “The magnitude of destruction has been matched only by the outpouring of support.”

The House joined in applause for first responders and National Guard troops who provided aid to flood victims.

 The $85 million figure is the maximum amount of potential state match, in the event that total disaster recovery costs would not top $253 million, the threshold needed to qualify for 90 percent funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In that event, the state would have to match 25 percent of recovery costs.

Funding sources proposed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin include transferring $55 million from the state’s Rainy Day emergency reserve fund, expending a total of $21 million of unappropriated balances in two state Lottery accounts, and transferring $9 million of unspent funds left from the just-completed 2015-16 state budget.

The money goes into the governor’s Civil Contingency Fund, where it can be disbursed to match federal funds.

Unlike the first special session on the 2016-17 state budget, which lasted 17 days at a cost of about $600,000, this special session coincides with regularly scheduled September legislative interim meetings, which run Sunday through Tuesday.

Reach Phil Kabler at [email protected], 304 348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

To see more from the Charleston Gazette-Mail, click here. 

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