U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack visited Columbus Junction this morning to view facilities that were damaged by last year’s flood. Vilsack says small, rural communities like Columbus Junction face challenges every day, not just in extraordinary situations like the flood.
"I have a chance to talk with their city leaders about their needs and how U.S.D.A. through its various programs — as we other refer to our department as, ‘Every Day, Every Way, U.S.D.A.,’ — we have a series of programs designed to help all of those uses, as well as assisting in flood," Vilsack says.
Vilsack, who was Iowa’s governor for eight years, started out in politics as the mayor of Mount Pleasant, which is about 25 miles south of Columbus Junction. During the height of last year’s flood fight, Vilsack and his wife went to Eddyville to help sand bag.
Later this morning, just after 10 o’clock, Vilsack will meet up with the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to tour flooded neighborhoods in Cedar Rapids.
"It’s important for the people of Cedar Rapids to understand and appreciate the investment that the Obama Administration is making not just in flood recovery and disaster relief, but also through the stimulus package," Vilsack says.
Officials revealed late yesterday Iowa is getting nearly $517 million dollars in additional Community Development Block Grants for flood recovery, and much of that will go to Cedar Rapids. But Vilsack says the federal economic stimulus package is forwarding even more to the state.
"What folks are going to learn — and they may be surprised to know — is that already a little over $1.1 billion has been obligated and allocated to the State of Iowa through a variety of programs (in the) Department of Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Department of Justice, Health and Human Services — everything from being able to hire police officers, to creating opportunities for health care clinics, to providing for safe drinking water, to weatherizing homes," Vilsack says. "All of this is being done to help folks transition through these tough times, to help build the infrastructure that will be needed for the future economy and to help build that framework for a cleaner, greener economy."
Vilsack spoke by phone with Radio Iowa this morning as he drove to Columbus Junction.