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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 27, 2005

President Discusses Hurricane Rita Relief with Louisiana Officials
Chennault International Airport
Lake Charles, Louisiana

President's Remarks

      In Focus: Hurricane Relief

1:36 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT: Governor, thank you very much for your hospitality. It's been my honor to talk to some of these parish presidents and mayors of the affected areas. I came down to make sure that things are going as best as they possibly can go.

First of all, I want to compliment the local folks for the heroic efforts they made to save life. I understand there's a lot of frustrations with the people who left this part of the country -- people that are scattered around want to come back and see their homes, and they want to come back to the communities they love. But it's very important for them to understand that now is not the time to come back, until they get the utilities up and running and until they can get the sewer systems running and until they get some water people can drink.

I heard loud and clear from the parish presidents and the mayors that, you know, people are getting frustrated. And I understand that frustration. But I think it's very important to listen to the governors -- the Governor and the local folks about the conditions at home. People are working hard to get the utilities up, they're working hard to get fuel here for people. And this area is going to rebuild and it's going to grow again.

Those who've been displaced, those in the affected areas know that they can call a FEMA number to get a $2,000 check for each family. And that will help you in your time away from your home. So please call and register. Last night we made the decision that the people affected by Rita will be treated the same way, with a $2,000 check, as those treated -- those affected by Katrina.

So, anyway, Governor, thanks for having me; senators and congressmen, thank you for coming. I particularly want to thank these parish presidents and mayors for their -- if you look at them, you see -- if you look in their eyes you see people who have been through a lot. And they're showing strong leadership, and I admire their -- I admire their stand and the courage they take.

Governor, if you'd like to say something.

GOVERNOR BLANCO: Well, Mr. President, first, let me say thank you for joining us today. You know, as you understand well, our people have been through a lot in southwest Louisiana. I do want to tell you that some things worked right this time; we learned a lot of lessons from our previous experience with Katrina. Our communications network stayed up, all of these folks could continue communicating their needs to us because there was a communications system that was not in place, it was brought in by your people and our people, working together.

I want to thank you because we have to continue a very close partnership in order for our recovery to be effective and in order for Louisiana to become whole again. We want to be players in this national economy. Our industries across this state have been impaired for the time being, but we know we can bring them back. The oil and gas industry is dependent on our health -- on a healthy Louisiana. The fisheries are dependent on Louisiana. We provide food to the people of the United States out of these parishes. Our agricultural industry is tremendously stressed.

But we know we can make it back, but we only can make it back with your help. So thank you again for coming. Thank you for letting all these folks tell you about their personal experiences. And we believe that we're going to make it back because you're here with us and we know we have a good partnership.

THE PRESIDENT: Listen, thank you all. Appreciate you.

END 1:40 P.M. CDT

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