Remarks in the Missouri-Kansas Flood Relief Telethon
The President. My fellow Americans, I want to thank you for watching this program tonight and for your concern for those who have been victimized by this awful flood. I've been to the Midwest three times myself. I've met with the Governors of the affected States here in the White House. Our people are there every day working hard to try to help put the lives of the folks back together who have been so hurt.
We have an emergency aid package moving through Congress which should be signed very shortly, and then the money will begin to flow to the Midwest. But under our system, the Federal Government can only do so much. We also need your help. The Red Cross has been magnificent. So has the Salvation Army. So have the churches and the other volunteer groups and people of all ages from all over America. But we now need to fill the gap left by Federal assistance, and left by the limits that people have in their own bankbooks, with private donations to help people put their lives back together. I hope you will help, too, so that together we can restore the people who have been so hurt and help them to rebuild their lives and our Nation.
The President. I think the bill will pass the Congress in the next couple of days and come right to me for my signature. The people in our administration believe that we'll be able to have checks flowing out there within 2 weeks after that bill is signed. I have told them to be ready and to work hard. We also have an 800 number which any citizen can call, which I'll provide to your station, to provide specific information about farm aid, small business aid, personal assistance, what can happen to the communities. We're working very hard to be ready, to be aggressive, to be fast.
The President. I think we lost a day we should not have lost, but I think now you will see the thing move very, very quickly indeed. And they'll bring it to me. And as soon as it comes, I'll sign it, and we'll move the money out. I think no more than a day has been lost. There was an honest debate here about how we're going to pay for emergency assistance over the long run, but we couldn't afford to let that take away from the urgent need to help the people in the Midwest. And that's the program everybody's on now, without regard to party and without regard to which House of Congress. I think you'll get it in a hurry.
The President. The Small Business Administration has an emergency program to provide very, very long-term, very, very low-interest loans to help people get back on their feet. In addition to that, for people who have been totally wiped out and have no assets left, there is some emergency financial aid available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. So between the two of them, I think we can go forward. As I said, one of the things I hope you'll do tonight is put our 800 number up. A person can call that number and get information on all the programs from all the agencies. You don't have to go to the hassle to call first one place and then another.
The President. I was very moved by it. When I went to Iowa and to Illinois and to Missouri and everyplace I went, there were just literally thousands of people who just showed up to help and to pour out their concern and to break their backs, frankly, to help their fellow Americans. It was our country at its best. And that's what I hope that this telethon will prove to be, too, asking for help and giving people a change to participate in the reconstruction of millions of lives.
The President. Well, for one thing, the Government programs have never been designed to cover 100 percent of the losses. We simply can't do that. We are going to help the cities, we are going to help as many farms and business people as we can, but there will be some gaps in this coverage. And those gaps have to be filled by private citizens.
For another, Americans have always rallied to one another in times of real need. And if we can do that now in this place for these people, just as we did about a year ago for the victims of Hurricane Andrew, then who knows when Americans in another State—people listening tonight who think nothing like this could ever happen to them, they may need the help of the folks in the Midwest. So if we help each other, we can put our lives back together and our whole country will be stronger, believe me. Someone in Utah or Texas or my home State of Arkansas, their economies will be weakened by the fact that the Midwest has been hurt by this flood. But if we all work together and rebuild the region, then that helps everybody in every State in America.
NOTE: The President spoke at approximately 8:30 p.m. via satellite from the Library at the White House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.
William J. Clinton, Remarks in the Missouri-Kansas Flood Relief Telethon Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/220352