Bill Clinton photo

Remarks to Heat Relief Volunteers in Chicago

August 03, 1999

Thank you very much. I want to say, first of all, I came here mostly just to say thank you. Thank you to the volunteers, the firefighters, the police officers, the emergency workers.

I am joined by three members of our Cabinet over here: our Secretary of Labor, Alexis Herman, Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, and Chicago's own, Secretary of Commerce Bill Daley.

Every time I come to Chicago, I get excited. I tell everybody all across America, you know, this is the way cities ought to work. It's a wellorganized, beautiful, clean, ever-changing, dynamic city, and one that doesn't run away from its problems but embraces them and tries to work through them; and that is what I want America to be like.

I know this has been a very difficult time. This heat wave has claimed over 190 lives nationwide. It has been very, very tough. And I just wanted to join the mayor in saying thank you. Normally, you know, when something like this happens, the role of the Federal Government is to declare emergencies, provide help to the farmers or the business people, or extra help to the seniors and others who are vulnerable. And I rarely get an opportunity to go out and see the people who do the work, save the lives, and help people get through the tough times. And so mostly I am here just to tell you, you've done a great job, and I am profoundly grateful. Thank you.

As we can all see, thankfully the blast-furnace heat has subsided a little bit here in Chicago, and believe it or not, it was a little better in Washington yesterday and today. Over the weekend, it was scorching. But we probably haven't seen the last of the heat for the season. And we know that many low income people in this area and throughout our country are now saddled with energy bills they can't begin to afford. So earlier today I authorized the release of another $55 million in emergency funding to help them.

The funding will be used in Illinois and eight other States in the Midwest and the South to help people pay for air-conditioning and pay off their high utility bills. About $16 million will go to the State of Illinois alone. We have now provided $150 million-plus for cooling assistance this summer across America, and I hope it will be enough.

We know that some of the elderly people who died in this heat wave were people on fixed incomes who were reluctant to turn their air-conditioning on. We know they were afraid they wouldn't be able to pay their bills at the end of the month. So the one news item I would hope would come out of this meeting is that through this announcement the seniors in this area and in any other area that might be hit by this kind of heat wave will know that there is Federal help available, Congress has set aside the money for this purpose. We know that when heat waves like this come along that are virtually unprecedented there will be people who need to be cool who can't afford to pay the bill.

So turn on the air-conditioner, and if you don't have one, send for a fan or a room unit; send for something that will keep you alive. That is the message we want to come out of here. I want your efforts all to be successful, and I hope that that message will go out across the country today. People should never have to worry in this country about risking their lives because they can't pay their power bills.

Again, let me say, I want to thank you. The executive director of the Chicago Housing Authority, I understand, said recently, there is no substitute for human contact. That's probably a good general rule, but it is certainly true in this case. You have provided that human contact, and the rest of us are very grateful.

Thank you, and God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 2:42 p.m. at the Lake Shore Park Pavilion. In his remarks, he referred to Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago; and Phillip Jackson, chief executive officer, Chicago Housing Authority. A portion of these remarks could not be verified because the tape was incomplete.

William J. Clinton, Remarks to Heat Relief Volunteers in Chicago Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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