Governor Tom Vilsack says federal officials have told the state of Iowa to prepare for some evacuees from the hurricane zone, but not today. “The State of Iowa and a hand full of other states have been asked by the Secretary (of Homeland Security) to essentially not stand down, but to stand by,” Vilsack says. (photo above shows Iowa Jaycees readying relief supplies)
State officials, the Iowa National Guard and volunteers set up a thousand cots and several processing stations on the Iowa State Fairgrounds yesterday (Tuesday) to prepare for evacuees they’d been told would be boarding airplanes in Houston bound for Des Moines. That didn’t happen. “We’re not going to end our preparation. We’re not going to tear down all of what we put together but we don’t know today whether or not it will ever be used in any degree,” Vilsack says. The governor says FEMA will issue a list each week, designating which “stand by” states will be getting evacuees on which day. But the refugees won’t be coming this week and Vilsack doesn’t expect a “massive” airlift of refugees from the Gulf Coast states to Iowa.
Vilsack says FEMA has asked Iowa for a list of the kind of permanent and temporary housing that’s available for hurricane victims. “Nobody wants to sleep on a cot for six months. Nobody wants to sleep in a place where there are 15,000 other people,” Vilsack says. “To the extent that states can provide better detailed information about the housing opportunities, that may be persuasive to a lot of families.”
The evacuees would be coming from Texas, and Vilsack says right now, those folks don’t want to leave Houston and the other Texas cities. “These families are traumatized and they just don’t want to move, which is perfectly understandable,” Vilsack says. The state of Texas can’t “compel” the people that have sought refuge in the Astrodome to go to another state. “So what they’re going to try to do over the course of the next several days and perhaps weeks is to begin the process of trying to deal with the emotional stress that folks have sustained, allow them a breather, and then inform them that there are opportunities across the country that they may want to take advantage of, either for a short period of time or for a longer period of time,” Vilsack says.
Vilsack says about a dozen states have made preparations similar to Iowa’s, and the rest of the states’ governors were told this (Wednesday) morning in a conference call with federal officials not to make preparations for relocating refugees. The feds will cover any expenses the state of Iowa and the other states racked up setting up sites to help folks from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama relocate. Hurricane victims who have come to Iowa and are living with relatives or being hosted by churches are asked to call 1-800-621-FEMA to sign up for a federal disaster grant to help pay some of their relocation costs. “Each family unit will receive a debit card from the federal government and this debit card will allow them to basically make purchases up to $2,000,” Vilsack says.” This morning, Vilsack visited a loading zone where Jaycees were packing trucks full of donated supplies that will be transported to three cities in Louisiana where local Jaycees are standing by.
“The generosity of Iowans once again on exhibit,” Vilsack says