THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Sacramento, California) ______________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release January 17, 1995
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT TO COMMUNITY RESIDENTS AFFECTED BY THE FLOOD
2:46 P.M. PST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, good afternoon, everyone. Let me say, first of all, I'm very glad to be here. I want to thank all of the people in this community who have shared their experiences with us. I'm here with Congressman Doolittle, Congressman Fazio, Lt. Governor Gray Davis, and members of our administration, including the Secretaries of Transportation Federico Pena, and Housing and Urban Development Henry Cisneros, and of course, our ever present FEMA Director James Lee Witt, who is virtually a taxpaying citizen of California, thanks to floods, fires, and earthquakes.
And we've been walking around the neighborhood today, talking and listening to people. I want to especially thank the Hayes family and the Merenda family for taking me into their homes and showing me the flood damage, and explaining in very gripping and human terms what this means to all of you and to your lives and hopes and your dreams.
I also want to thank all the people who have worked here to try to help put the community back together and try to help people put their lives back together. I'd especially like to say something about the young people in the California Conservation Corps. I admire that group so much, and they've done a lot of very, very good work. (Applause.)
The California Conservation Corps receives several million dollars every year from our national service program. It's one of the affiliate programs. And I was very impressed when Richard Merenda told me that he is about to go to work for the California Conservation Corps in Klamath. He's going to work on firefighting, salmon restoration and flood control. He's very well prepared for the last category now as a result of this. (Applause.) But I'll tell you, I hope he never has to come home and work on this again.
I want to thank again all of you, and especially the young people who worked so hard on this. Mr. Hayes told me that -- I forget how many hours he said had already been put in by volunteers helping him with his home; something over 600, I think.
I want to say a special word of appreciation to the local and the state officials and, of course, all the federal officials that we're trying to work efficiently together. I have heard about some of the things that we should be doing, and we're going to try to improve and try to make sure everybody knows what they're entitled to and get as much help as we can. (Applause.)
You know, 38 of your counties have now been declared disaster areas as a result of the flood. We've released $10 million from FEMA last week for cleanup, and more than 13,000 people have registered for assistance.
In this community, I think of the 338 or so homes that were severely damaged, I think there are still almost 100 people who have not yet registered. So we've got some work to do here and we're going to do it. But of the 13,000 people who have already registered, I know that a couple of hundred thousand dollars in checks have already been sent out. So we're going to move this process along quickly and get you as much help as possible.
I know a lot of people are living in motels or trailers or with friends or family and have very, very difficult short-term personal situations, so we're going to try to fix them.
I'm also happy to say today that we're going to release another $15 million in emergency funds from the Federal Highway Administration. Rodney Slater, the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, is here. That's a part of the Department of Transportation. We have some significant road damage here we're going to try to do our best to deal with.
The federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs of the emergency highway repair, and we're going to try to get everybody back to business as quickly as possible.
Let me say one thing on a very personal note. A lot of people have said to me today, well, I'm glad you came out here, Mr. President. This is a little town and I appreciate you taking time to come. But if you look at what we're seeing today, or you've dealt with a disaster beyond your control, I think I can say for everybody that came with me, we were deeply moved by what we saw -- by the unity in the spirit in this community, by the devotion of people to their homes and their families, but especially by the devotion of people to each other.
I wish I could bottle what I have seen and heard here today and spread it out in every community in America. We could solve about half the problems of this country in a very short time if I felt the kind of devotion and commitment everywhere that I sensed here on the streets of this community today. And I just want to urge you not to give up and not to be discouraged.
When that earthquake hit Southern California a year ago, there were 5,600 school buildings damaged. Today, a year later, we celebrated the one-year anniversary, all but 40 of those buildings are open out of 5,600 educating kids. And that shows you what you can do if everybody pulls together and works together.
I know that a lot of you have really painful stories now about work you've done in your home that seems to be wiped away and family furniture that may be lost forever and a lot of things that are a very important part of your past. But I would just urge you not to lose the optimism, the resilience, the strength that I have sensed here from all of you today. Don't give up. We will look at the long-term problems that I've been asked to look at. I know this is the second time this has happened in 10 years and you're getting sick of waiting for the water to come every time the thunder claps overhead. So we'll look at that.
But meanwhile, let's all pull together and work together and follow the lead of these fine young people and the families I had the privilege to visit with today.
Thank you, and God bless you all. (Applause.)
END2:55 P.M. PST