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Breaking a Promise
President's Promise for Aid for Katrina States Failing to Materialize - Alarms State's Congressional Leaders.

By Keith Burton - GCN     12/2/05

Mississippi Senator Trent Lott and Congressman Gene Taylor are calling on President George Bush to fulfill the promises he made to help the Mississippi Gulf Coast recover from Hurricane Katrina.

In an interview with GCN earlier this week, Taylor said that the White House has yet to send to Congress a specific request to provide the funding needed for Katrina recovery in Mississippi.

"The President has not yet sent a measure requesting funding from Congress, but it has to get started," Taylor told GCN.

Funding for such things as helping cities and counties rebuild damaged public buildings, aid to families without insurance, and funds for rebuilding the critically needed Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge and Bay St. Louis bridge are still stalled in Washington. Numerous other measures are also backed up and the leadership from the White House to push for recovery issues is absent.

Today, Present Bush praised the nation's economy and its strength, but it seems he left out those areas struggling to survive from Katrina. Particularly troublesome is the housing situation for Katrina survivors, which continues to be a major problem

In a public statement emailed to GCN, Lott said the recovery in not going well. The following is Lott's statement in its entirety.

Senator Lott Asks President Not to Leave Mississippi Behind Nation’s Economic Upturn
– Responds to President’s Remarks that ‘Economy is in Good Shape’ – 

< WASHINGTON, D.C.. – U.S. Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi Friday credited the agenda of tax cuts, deregulation and tort reform initiatives passed by the Congress and signed into law by President Bush with the overall upturn in the national economy, but he urged President Bush not to leave Mississippi behind in the nation’s recovery.

Senator Lott recalled President Bush’s promise to South Mississippians on his first visit to the Katrina-ravaged area on Friday, September 2, when the president said: “The good news is – and it’s hard for some to see it now – that out of this chaos is going to come a fantastic Gulf Coast, like it was before,” President Bush said.  “Again, my attitude is, if it’s not going exactly right, we’re going to make it go exactly right.  If there’s problems, we’re going to address the problems.  And that’s what I’ve come down to assure people of.”

“Mr. President, the recovery is not going exactly right,” Senator Lott said Friday.  “Three months after Katrina, 42 percent of the travel trailers required for those still homeless have not been delivered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Winter is coming to Mississippi, and too many people are still living in tents or carports.  Three months after the hurricane, only an estimated one quarter of the storm’s debris has been removed in most areas, and too many neighborhoods have had none removed, much less the garbage that has accumulated since Katrina.”

Pointing to the President’s assertion that the nation’s “small business sector is vibrant,” Senator Lott said that as of November 28, only 314 business loans have been approved by the Small Business Administration for the entire State of Mississippi, out of 7,050 applications.  “This is preventing small businesses from coming back and jobs from returning or being created, so not unexpectedly, our employment rates in Mississippi’s two largest coastal counties – Harrison and Jackson – are more than quadruple the national average.”

“Mississippians are hard-working, resilient and competitive, which is why prior to Katrina, our state’s economy was on an upward spiral,” Senator Lott said.  “Mississippians aren’t whiners.  We’ve dusted ourselves off and are working to restore our infrastructure and residential and business tax base, but, Mr. President, we need your leadership to ensure that the federal government fulfills its commitment to help Mississippians get back on their feet.  That isn’t going exactly right, and the nation cannot celebrate its economic recovery until Mississippi is whole again.”

The leadership issue from the White House is particularly disturbing. The President has been preoccupied with the war in Iraq, China trade issues and staffing problems that have largely left the Ship of State in disarray, while a huge hole of suffering is sinking the Gulf south.

Taylor says additional help is needed from Mississippi's Senator Thad Cochran, who is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and one of the most powerful men in Congress. Through Cochran's support, funding for much of what is needed for Katrina recovery will come. But there is a problem.

"Cochran has told me that he is waiting on some direction from the White House," Taylor said. "This waiting on the budget process from the White House has to stop. It's time to get moving forward."

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