Friday, March 02, 2007

Bush Acknowledges Gulf Coast Troubles

NEW ORLEANS — President Bush on Thursday acknowledged the deep frustration of Hurricane Katrina victims and said the federal government shares the blame for the slow recovery of the Gulf Coast.

He gave residents of the battered region a message: "The federal government still knows you exist."

In stops across coastal Mississippi and Louisiana, Bush defended the federal allotment of $110 billion in relief aid. Of that total, less than half has been spent.

"If it is stuck because of unnecessary bureaucracy, our responsibility at the federal, state and local level is to unstick it," Bush said at Samuel J. Green Charter School, which recovered from flooding.

The Bush administration's initial response to the most destructive natural disaster in U.S. history was widely seen as a failure.

And the president is still dogged by criticism. Democratic lawmakers are pushing for more action.

"I committed to the people of this part of the world and the Gulf Coast that the federal government would fund recovery _ and stay committed to the recovery," Bush said during his 14th trip to the region. It was his first visit since the one-year anniversary of the storm.

Much of New Orleans outside the tourist areas remains in shambles. Violent crime has soared and health care is limited. Many residents are thinking of getting out for good.

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