In an address to the nation from the devastated city of New Orleans, President Bush is to discuss plans to help the U.S. Gulf Coast region recover from Hurricane Katrina. The president is making his fourth trip to the region in the wake of the disaster.
White House Spokesman Scott McClellan says a massive reconstruction effort will be required. Speaking with reporters Thursday, Mr. McClellan said President Bush will address multiple facets of the recovery effort, from housing and health care needs to job assistance and education. He said the president's goal is to make the region stronger and better than it was before the hurricane, and that Mr. Bush will be open to suggestions from all quarters, including local officials and the private sector.
The president's trip to the affected region comes amid more news of the economic fallout from Katrina. The Labor Department is reporting nearly 70,000 new unemployment claims stemming from job losses blamed on the storm, and that further economic dislocation is expected.
The White House says there are no plans to modify President Bush's pro-tax cut policies to help pay for recovery efforts, arguing that raising taxes would impose a heavy burden on the very people who need help to rebuild after the hurricane.
Mr. Bush's visit to New Orleans comes as local officials prepare to reopen certain areas of the city where floodwaters have receded and basic services are restarting. New Orleans' mayor Ray Nagin says businesses may reopen in some districts beginning Saturday, and that about 180,000 residents will be permitted to return to their homes beginning next week. However, a dusk-to-dawn curfew is to remain in effect.
Public opinion polls continue to show Mr. Bush with the lowest approval ratings of his presidency, amid heavy criticism of the federal government's response to Katrina.