President Clinton Offers $1.2 Billion in Flood Aid

VISITING Iowa, President Clinton offered the Midwest a $1.2 billion package of flood-relief assistance, saying the high water along the Mississippi River is "as bad as it gets."

Mr. Clinton, touring the flood-ravaged area Sunday, met with about 100 farmers huddled under a tent on a farm just outside Eldridge, Iowa. He offered sympathy for those affected and said he would back up the sympathy with more federal money.

"We are trying to be responsive and to be helpful," the president said.

Before leaving Washington, Clinton said he authorized the release of $100 million in federal disaster funds. He also said he would use another $297 million that's available.

And Congress will be asked to approve another $850 million on an emergency basis, something lawmakers are almost certain to endorse, Clinton said.

"I don't think we're going to have any trouble getting it," Clinton said.

In addition, Clinton said he would move to give flood victims more time to seek disaster aid and pledged a "long-term reform" of the nation's system of crop insurance.

While cities along the swollen Mississippi have suffered enormous damage, millions of acres of farmland also have been flooded and officials are projecting heavy crop losses.

In Iowa alone, officials have projected the loss at $750 million.

Clinton, heading for an economic summit in Japan, spent three hours in the region where the Mississippi is experiencing its worst flooding in nearly 30 years.

"I've seen a lot of this in my life, and this is as bad as it gets," Clinton said.

The disaster-aid package Clinton said he would seek is designed to provide flood victims the same level of relief given victims of Hurricane Andrew.

Clinton said Congress can either directly appropriate the money or find spending cuts elsewhere in the budget. NOW convention

The National Organization for Women will step up its work for poor and low-income women and fight "punitive" welfare-reform proposals, the group's president said at the NOW convention in Boston that ended Sunday.

Patricia Ireland said the group also will fight what she perceives as the religious right's opposition to feminism, and strive to get more women into elective office. Noting that last year's general election doubled the number of women in the House and Senate to 10 percent, she predicted Sunday: "We will have far more of our members elected in Congress."

After fending off a challenge Saturday night from a South Carolina lawyer to gain her first elected term as NOW's leader, Ireland urged members at the annual convention to forget the sometimes divisive campaign.

"We asked everyone to work with us," Ms. Ireland said on the last day of the group's three-day convention. "The real enemy is outside our ranks."

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