Obama Vows to Free Up Aid for Gulf Coast

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President Barack Obama promised federal assistance would continue for the Gulf region still recovering four years after Hurricane Katrina.

Obama traveled to New Orleans, Thursday, fulfilling his campaign promise to survey the city's development since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It was his first trip to the area since becoming president.

"We've put in place innovative review and dispute resolution programs to get projects moving forward quickly," Obama said. "We've freed up over $1.5 billion in recovery and rebuilding assistance that have been tangled up in red tape for years."

"This assistance is allowing us to move forward together with projects that were stalled against the Gulf Coast," he added.

Obama had been critical of the previous administration's handling of Katrina, accusing former President George W. Bush of heading a government "that sits on its hands while a major American city drowns."

Some area residents, however, complained that President Obama's brief visit was just a "glorified flyover," and insisted he needs to do more.

The White House said the visit was to demonstrates the president's "strong commitment to Gulf Coast rebuilding and recovery."

Mississippi residents were also displeased as the state - which took a direct hit from Katrina - was omitted from Obama's visit altogether.

"There is a big difference between campaigning here as a political candidate and spending quality time here as the president. ... The people of New Orleans deserve more than a 'drive-through daiquiri' summit with the president," Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, said during a news conference Monday.
    
Still, White House spokeman Nicholas Shapiro said the president's visit demonstrates his "strong commitment to Gulf coast rebuilding and recovery."
        
"More than $1 billion in Recovery Act money has been targeted for New Orleans, funding almost 1,000 projects -- work on roads, bridges, Army Corps construction, schools, health centers and more," Shapiro said.

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