At the same time President Bush announced plans for the government to help the Soviet Union through a tough winter and a time of enormous change, private aid from U.S. relief organizations is becoming available for the struggling Soviets as well.

But those private groups gathering donations here also are struggling to assure donors that the aid reaches the people in the Soviet Union who need it.

After a period of wariness, U.S. organizations are ready to start sending food and medicines as long as they can be assured that these supplies will bypass, as much as possible, the byzantine Soviet bureaucracy or the society's thriving black market.

One group, AmeriCares of New Caanan, Conn., promised to ship 1 million pounds of medical supplies for Soviet children, and it has started sending planes loaded with the material.

However, AmeriCares founder and chairman, Robert C. Macauley, said his group worries so much about losing some of the donations to the subterranean economy that operates in the Soviet Union that he sends Americans to keep track of supplies.

"We follow the trucks," said Macauley, who added that he is working with Raisa Gorbachev's children's committee to help with distribution.

"They know that if any shipment is ever diverted, we'll immediately cut the whole deal off," he said.

Similarly, Project HOPE, which has U.S. staff members living in the Soviet Union to pass out medical supplies shipped from here, is considering plans to step up its medical aid program.

The American Red Cross, which had been discussing how to help the Soviets, last week announced an agreement with the Alliance of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of the U.S.S.R. to start assisting "the most vulnerable groups" caught in the upheaval in the Soviet Union, where food is scarce and most store shelves are empty.

Asked how these U.S. donations would be distributed, Dimitry D. Venedictov, chairman of the executive committee of the Soviet Red Cross and Red Crescent alliance, said during a trip to Washington, "We will do our best to provide that distribution goes safely to those in need."

But he added that if there was some concern about how the standardized relief parcels are handed out, "and if there is some desire to check and see, a Red Cross representative will be welcome. There will be no problem."

Jose A. Aponte, general manager for international services for the American Red Cross, said the agreement last week does not mean the Red Cross will launch a major campaign. Instead, this gives each of 2,900 local units in this country a way to help Soviet citizens in need if they want to do so.

While the larger, more experienced relief organizations have begun speeding up plans to help the Soviets, new groups are beginning to explore ways to ease the transition of the Soviet Union's government-controlled system to some form of free-market economy.

The Iowa congressional delegation and Iowa Gov. Terry E. Branstad (R) agreed Wednesday to send food aid from Iowa to the Soviet Union this winter. Lorraine Voles, press secretary for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev last month told Harkin "we need food immediately here."

Coon Rapids banker John Chrystal said the idea of Iowa aid was hatched in the last week and that few details are available at this point about what would go, how it would get there and who would distribute it.

Chrystal, who is helping organize the aid from Iowa, said his group is trying to get the cooperation of the Academy of Sciences in Moscow to "distribute the food and eliminate any question of irregularities."

"Iowans have always been good givers," Chrystal said. "I think that comes from being a farm state."

He said the gifts are not pure charity, however. "We want to use the contacts to work up more of a commercial relationship {between Iowa and the Soviet Union}," he said.