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. Bush To Seek Another 51.8 Billion Dollars For Katrina

Homeless Katrina Survivors Get Government Debit Cards
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, (AFP) Sep 07, 2005 - The US government is issuing debit cards to destitute survivors of Hurricane Katrina to help them survive while in shelters across the country, the top US disaster manager said Wednesday.

Some of the hundreds of thousands of evacuees created by the storm that battered the US Gulf Coast nine days ago are being issued debit cards worth 2,000 dollars to allow them to buy emergency supplies and clothing, Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown said.

"We are in the process of addressing the financial and human needs of the ... disaster victims, those who have been evacuated," he told a press conference in the Louisiana capital of Baton Rouge.

"The concept is to get them some cash in hand which empowers them to make their own decisions," Brown added.

Around one million people were forced from their homes by the storm, which breached the dykes protecting low-lying New Orleans from the waters of Lake Pontchartrian, flooding the city and turning it into a deadly swamp.

Some 319,000 people have registered as evacuees with FEMA, Brown said, urging other victims to follow suit.

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Washington (AFP) Sep 07, 2005
US President George W. Bush asked lawmakers Wednesday for another 51.8 billion dollars in emergency funding to defray costs related to the relief and recovery efforts tied to Hurricane Katrina.

"We are sparing no effort to help those who have been affected by Katrina and are in need of help," spokesman Scott McClellan said as he announced the new request, which was expected to be approved as early as Wednesday.

The new package will primarily pay for search-and-rescue efforts and drinking water, and will cover public health issues caused by the killer storm, said the spokesman.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would get 50 billion dollars, the US Defense Department 1.4 billion, and the reamining 400 million would go to the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Bush last week signed an initial emergency package totalling some 10.5 billion dollars but warned at the time that it would be merely a "small downpayment" on costs linked to the disaster.

"It is being spent more quickly than we even anticipated last week at this point. And that's why we're moving forward on this additional request now, to make sure that there's no disruption," said McClellan.

White House budget chief Josh Bolten told reporters on a conference call that the new request would not be the last as Washington confronts arguably the worst natural disaster in US history.

"But we believe that this request will provide the ample funds to carry out the current activities and ensure that at least for the next few weeks, all of the relevant agencies have sufficient funds," he said.

Senate Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist vowed fast action on the request.

"We will not leave this week until we complete action on that bill," he said, adding that the emergency funds comprise just a small portion of what is expected to be billions more dollars in future aid.

"There may be additional small and immediate Katrina-related legislation that we'll need to pass very quickly, very responsibly as the need arises," Frist said.

related report
Senator To Bush: Appoint A 'Czar' To Oversee Katrina Relief
Washington (AFP) Sep 07 - A top Senate Republican called Wednesday on US President George W. Bush to appoint an official to oversee and streamline all disaster relief efforts related to Hurricane Katrina.

"I strongly recommend that we suggest to the administration that they quickly decide on some kind of an executive headquarters and chief recovery person so that all of this effort can be coordinated," Senator Pete Domenici said at a press briefing.

He said without such central coordination, officials in Washington were in danger of duplicating their efforts and working at cross purposes.

"We're going to be running in each other's way pretty soon, as are the cabinet members," he said.

"Something has to be done to coordinate it, and I think an 'Office of Reconstruction and Rehabilitation' headed by some very distinguished person with ... could be telling everybody what the problems are, instead of us having these innumerable hearings which might run into each other, and might not even end up solving the right problems."

On the floor of the US Senate later Wednesday, Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy also called for the creation of a new agency to handle issues related to Katrina.

"I propose that we create a New Orleans and Gulf Coast Redevelopment Authority," the Massachusetts lawmaker said. "We should invest at least 150 billion dollars in its actions to work with governors and mayors and citizens and communities to plan, help fund, and coordinate for the reconstruction of that damaged region."

He added that the new agency also "should help hire workers to put people back to work rebuilding their own communities and help them get back on their feet again."

Meanwhile the top Democrat in the Senate called on the Bush administration to launch a massive "Marshall Plan" of relief initiatives to help the hurricane-flattened Gulf region get back on its feet.

"We need a massive Marshall Plan to rebuild New Orleans," said Senator Harry Reid on the Senate floor, adding that such a broad package of relief measures -- as that which helped Europe rebuild after World War II -- could help "rebuild all of urban America."

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US Has Accepted One Billion Dollars In International Aid: Official
Washington (AFP) Sep 07, 2005
The United States has accepted one billion dollars in cash and material goods from 45 countries and is weighing other offers of aid for Hurricane Katrina victims, a State Department official said Wednesday.

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