[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1994, Book I)]
[February 12, 1994]
[Pages 242-244]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]



Remarks on Signing California Earthquake Relief Legislation and an 
Exchange With Reporters
February 12, 1994

    The President. Good morning. I'm glad to be here with the Speaker 
and members of the California delegation and one member of the Missouri 
delegation, Secretary Brown and Senator Hatfield and others, to sign 
this bill today.
    This was legislation requested by our administration to provide the 
most comprehensive national response ever to a region experiencing a 
natural disaster, the earthquake which inflicted such damage in the Los 
Angeles area on January 17th. Many people had their lives shaken and 
transformed by the damage caused by the Northridge quake. They faced the 
human tragedy of 61 deaths, nearly 10,000 injuries requiring 
hospitalization, and many, many thousands of people who lost their 
homes, their jobs, or otherwise had their lives turned upside down.
    We saw the fierce power of the shifting earth twist and break 
highways, uproot homes, ignite fires, and literally reshape parts of the 
Los Angeles landscape. More than 150 public schools were damaged. Five 
hospitals suffered destruction requiring as much as $700 million in 
repair. Much of the damage will take months if not

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years. It is only the latest hardship that the people of that area have 
experienced.
    The first line of defense was the spirit the people of Los Angeles 
brought to this tragedy. Before the tremors had a chance to subside, we 
saw all the moving stories of neighbors helping neighbors; police, fire, 
rescue, and medical people serving without rest; and dedicated public 
officials who put people above politics. Although the central highway 
throughout the region sustained enormous damage, imaginative means were 
immediately employed to permit a return to some semblance of normal 
life. Crime was down 21.5 percent in the immediate aftermath of the 
earthquake. Something good happened amidst all that tragedy as people 
pulled together and they stayed together.
    The second line of defense against the quake was coordinated by FEMA 
under the leadership of James Lee Witt. FEMA has already accepted over 
300,000 applications for disaster assistance. HUD Secretary Henry 
Cisneros led his Department's efforts to provide emergency housing aid. 
The SBA is processing nearly a quarter of a million applications from 
homeowners and businesses for disaster loans. Transportation Secretary 
Pena and Highway Administrator Slater are doing work to try to speed the 
highway repairs and to try to help provide alternative means of 
transportation. In each of these agencies, people are serving the way 
the taxpayers deserve to be treated, as customers, neighbors, and 
friends.
    Today we put in motion the third line of defense: Federal disaster 
relief for California. It was the largest package of such aid in 
history, and as Congressman Volkmer's presence here reminds us, it also 
contains some aid for the people who suffered from the 500-year flood in 
the Middle West.
    The bill provides $8.6 billion in housing assistance and home 
repairs, repairs to public facilities, transit and road reconstruction, 
school repairs, loans to get businesses back in business, plus funds 
I'll be able to use to respond to unanticipated needs. Congress 
considered and adopted this legislation very quickly. Democratic and 
Republican representatives from California in the affected region worked 
in close cooperation. Senators Boxer and Feinstein, the House 
delegation, Mayor Riordan, Governor Wilson represented the needs of the 
city and the States very well. And I want to compliment the legislators 
throughout the country for recognizing that this is a national problem 
and making it a national effort.
    Ultimately, the reconstruction of Los Angles will depend upon the 
resilience and the patience of the people there. Their will has been 
tested often over the last several years. Their spirit has remained 
unbroken, and I'm confident it will continue to be. Secretary Brown is 
here to symbolize the ongoing effort we have had to work with the people 
of California under his coordinated leadership since the beginning of 
our administration. Just yesterday we had White House officials there 
working on the long-term repair work to make sure that the people of 
California did not believe that this was just a short-term effort on our 
part.
    We have to continue to do this. The size of the appropriation and 
the speed with which Congress adopted it indicates the generosity of the 
American people when tragedy strikes. What we now have to demonstrate is 
that we have the consistency of commitment to stay until this matter is 
put back together. It's the same thing I said to the people in the 
Middle West who were affected by the floods; we know there's a short-
term and a long-term problem. But I must compliment the Congress on this 
terrific response to the terrible tragedy of January 17th. And I'm glad 
to be signing it today, and I'm glad that the benefits will begin to 
flow tomorrow.

[At this point, the President signed the legislation.]

Japan-U.S. Trade

    Q. Mr. President, did you share with Prime Minister Hosokawa at your 
breakfast any of the measures the U.S. is now considering in light of 
the breakdown in talks?
    The President. No, it was a totally social visit. Mrs. Hosokawa 
came, I gave them a tour of the upstairs at the White House, and we 
talked about other things. We did talk a little bit about Latin America 
and a little about China, but otherwise there was nothing that could 
even be remotely characterized as business.
    Q. Where do you think the United States will go next?
    The President. We'll have to examine what our next step should be, 
and I will be turning to that next week. As I said, we worked until 4 
o'clock in the morning the night before last hoping to get an agreement, 
and part of it de-


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pends upon whether the framework agreement is something that both 
countries will adhere to. If you go back and read the framework 
agreement, it plainly called for the development of objective measures, 
qualitative or quantitative or both--those were the words used in the 
agreement--to see whether we're making progress in reducing this trade 
deficit. So we'll just have to assess where we are and what happens. I 
don't really have anything else to say about it today.
    Q. Thank you.
    The President. Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:07 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White 
House. H.R. 3759, making emergency supplemental appropriations for the 
fiscal year ending September 30, 1994, and for other purposes, approved 
February 12, was assigned Public Law No. 103-211.