UPDATE: New fraud hotline established for WV flood victims - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: New fraud hotline established for WV flood victims

(WVVA) -

The West Virginia National Guard created a new fraud hotline for flood victims with concerns over the alleged mishandling of federal funds by RISE West Virginia.

The number is 1-866-989-2824 or 1-866-WVWATCH.

BLUEFIELD, West Virginia -- Governor Jim Justice, in a wide-ranging interview at WVVA Thursday, discussed the dismissal of West Virginia Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher.

The governor said Thrasher "is a good man," but that Commerce's reported mishandling of the ongoing flood relief effort had become a distraction. So Justice said he asked for Thrasher's resignation.

Justice said he's concerned that there are still too many flood victims waiting for help and that his administration needs to keep things moving. At issue is a HUD block grant of nearly $150 million, most of which hasn't been spent.

The grant money was made available on or around February 20th and then a week later, the governor placed a so-called "pause" on the distribution of an initial $17 million that was under the administration of a contractor, Horne LLC. The governor said he wanted a temporary halt to the funding so his office could investigate if the money was being spent wisely.

He told WVVA that an investigation showed about $8 million would be wasted, so he defended the pause by stating that he saved taxpayers "a lot of money."

Still, HUD has questioned why West Virginia has been so slow in distributing the block grant money. Justice said he'd confident the money will go to those who need it the most and soon.

The governor also addressed the ongoing effort to revamp the process by which the state administers PEIA, the insurance program for public employees. Rising premiums was one of the issues that prompted a nine-day walkout by the state's teachers earlier in the year.

Immediately following the end of the walkout, the governor appointed a PEIA task force to look into how to make the program more equitable.

When asked if this was something that might be on the agenda during the next legislative session, Justice said he didn't want to wait that long. He said he expects a solution to be announced in late August or early September.

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