U.S. President George Bush says tax rebates and business incentives will help revive an American economy hurt by higher energy costs and falling home values. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, consumer confidence is at a 16-year low.

President Bush told workers at a cable television company in the southwest state of Arizona that business incentives and tax refunds to more than 130 million households should help the economy by July.

"The stimulus package that we passed in Congress is just beginning to kick in and it is going to make a positive contribution to economic growth," said

President Bush.

The president is trying to reassure Americans about the long-term health of the U.S. economy at a time when concern about the economic slowdown has replaced the war in Iraq as the biggest issue on the minds of voters.

A regular survey of thousands of American households found consumer confidence in May at its lowest level in 16 years.

Much of the current slowdown follows the crisis in the U.S. housing market earlier this year. Many new home buyers got low introductory rates but were unable to meet their mortgage payments once those rates went up, leading to record foreclosures.

U.S. housing prices posted their steepest drop in 20 years last month. A government report says new homes sales rose in April but remain near their lowest level in 17 years.

Higher food and energy prices are also depressing retail sales. The Automobile Association of America says U.S. gas prices have reached a record high $1.04 a liter average nationwide.

Opposition Democrats in Congress are calling for a second economic stimulus plan to extend unemployment benefits. President Bush wants to see the affects of the current stimulus plan before considering further government intervention in a sagging economy.