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Tomblin issues special session call for $85 million in flood relief

CHRISTIAN TYLER RANDOLPH | Gazette-Mail file photo
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin prepares to deliver the State of the State address at the Capitol in January of this year.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Friday issued the official call for a special legislative session to transfer $85 million of state funds to cover the state’s share of recovery costs from the June 23 flooding that devastated significant parts of West Virginia.

The session — which is limited to flood recovery funding — will begin at 6 p.m. Sunday, coinciding with September legislative interim meetings.

“With such extensive destruction, we have been continually working to identify all costs associated with this disaster,” Tomblin said in releasing the special session call. “Now that we have a clearer picture of total estimated costs moving forward, we must allocate the funds needed to continue the recovery process.”

The governor’s office Friday issued new estimates of a total of more than $339 million in flood recovery costs, and on Thursday Tomblin sent a letter to President Barack Obama requesting $310 million in federal disaster relief funds.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will cover at least 75 percent of recovery costs, and that percentage can increase to 90 percent if disaster recovery costs top a $253 million threshold.

Tomblin is asking the Legislature to appropriate $85 million, which would be the maximum amount of state match needed should the state not qualify for 90 percent federal funding.

Funding sources proposed by Tomblin include transferring $55 million from the state’s Rainy Day emergency reserve fund, and spending a total of $21 million of unappropriated balances in two state Lottery accounts.

The remaining $9 million would come from transfers of unappropriated general revenue funds left from the recently completed 2015-16 state budget, Tomblin spokeswoman Jessica Tice explained.

“The June flooding was unprecedented in our state’s history, claiming 23 lives and ravaging our communities. More than 1,400 homes and 50 businesses were destroyed, while more than 2,300 homes and nearly 200 businesses sustained serious damage,” Tomblin said. “In addition, damages to public infrastructure will end up totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Tomblin said that, having met with House and Senate leadership Thursday, he is confident the session can move quickly.

In addition to Sunday evening, the Legislature has set aside two two-hour blocks during the interim schedule, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday if needed, for the special session.

This will mark the second special session of the Legislature this year. Earlier this year, the Legislature met for a total of 17 days in special session to pass the 2016-17 state budget.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazettemail.com, 304 348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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