Governor Tom Vilsack is pledging state taxdollars to help up to 5000 homeless hurricane victims live in Iowa temporarily. “Right now, I’m just concerned about making sure that we shoulder our fair share of the burden,” Vilsack says. “In a tragedy of this magnitude, America becomes a single community and we all have a responsibility to pitch in and help and I think Iowans are leading the way with this effort.” Hurricane victims who could arrange transportation to Iowa would be given rent money for about a month by the American Red Cross, and Vilsack says the state would extend food stamp benefits, health care and other services to the needy. Vilsack offers no estimate on how many state tax dollars would be dedicated to the effort. “The State of Iowa is going to continue to do its fair share in helping the folks of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama get through this most difficult time,” Vilsack says. The Iowa Finance Authority has gotten permission from the IRS to open some government-financed low- and moderate-income housing units to the hurricane victims who might come to Iowa. “This will provide for more sustained housing for these folks for a longer period of time,” Vilsack says. The governor says several Iowa businesses have pledged to employ the hurricane victims once they arrive, but he offers no names or an exact number of jobs which might be available. Vilsack says Iowa Air Guard jets and pilots got to New Orleans Friday to start helping evacuate elderly and disabled people from New Orleans. “In addition, (Iowa Air Guard jets) helped transport 40 military police and other law enforcement personnel into New Orleans as well as a tanker full of fuel to provide for the fuel needs of law enforcement in New Orleans,” Vilsack says. The governor is concerned, though, about making sure volunteers, especially those with medical expertise, from Iowa who go to the region are safe. He says several Iowa law enforcement officials have been asked to go to Louisiana to help, but it’s not clear whether their work will be coordinated by local officials or the feds. “We want to make sure that people (who) are being sent down there are seasoned,” Vilsack says. “This is still a very volatile situation and we want to make sure that people, particularly in law enforcement, are very well versed in circumstances that they might find themselves in in the not-too-distant future.” Vilsack has also made an appeal to the nation’s railroads on behalf of Iowa’s farmers. “We are concerned…that farmers are given the opportunity to transport their grain out of the state when it is sold,” Vilsack says. The Port of New Orleans is closed, and there’s no estimate of when barge traffic may resume on the Mississippi. Barges transport much of the fall harvest to market.
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