WASHINGTON – President Bush pledged housing help and other federal aid to victims of Midwest storms and said he would inspect flood damage in a trip to Iowa on Thursday.
Briefed on Tuesday by officials involved in the relief effort, Bush also said he would work with Congress on emergency legislation to help replenish a federal emergency disaster fund.
He told reporters there is enough in the fund to cover the most recent flooding disaster, but added: "What we're concerned about is future disasters this year."
Bush said his administration was setting up a housing task force similar to one set up in California for wildfire victims to help get people back in their homes or find other shelter.
"I fully understand people are upset when they lose their home. A person's home is their most valued possession," he said. "And we want to work with state and local folks to have a clear strategy to help people...get back into a place where they can live."
He said the government was providing a variety of aid, including two million liters of drinking water for people in Iowa. "We're in constant contact with people on the ground to help make sure that we save lives," Bush said.
The president said an assessment was still being made of damage to farms and livestock. He said federal aid would be made available to farmers and ranchers.
The heavy rains have washed out millions of acres of prime farm and grazing lands, raising the likelihood of higher food prices at a time when food and energy costs are already soaring.
"It's absolutely a concern," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. "It's too early to say what the exact impact will be. It will certainly cause disruptions, in terms of the food supply coming from that region."
He said the Agriculture Department was "waiting for the ability to be able to go into these areas and try to make determinations as to what the crop reduction would be."