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Bush declares Sept. 16 national day of prayer


Mannie Garcia/Reuters

President George W. Bush peers out the cabin window of Air Force One as he surveys the damage along the Gulf Coast on August 31. Bush has declared Sept. 16 as a National Day of Prayer for the storm's victims.

WASHINGTON (BP) - As the nation unites for the daunting challenge of assisting Hurricane Katrina survivors, President Bush is calling for a national day of prayer and remembrance Friday, Sept. 16.

"Throughout our history in times of testing, Americans have come together to heal and ask for strength for the tasks ahead," Bush said during remarks on hurricane relief. "... I ask that we pray - as Americans have always prayed in times of trial - with confidence in His purpose, with hope for a brighter future and with the humility to ask God to keep us strong."

Shirley Dobson, chairwoman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, called on Americans to pray for all those affected.

"As the devastation from Hurricane Katrina escalates, we at the National Day of Prayer Task Force want to express our heartfelt sympathy to [those] affected," Dobson said.

Bush also announced two steps he is taking to cut through the red tape that has prevented some needy citizens from receiving aid in a timely fashion. Federal officials are in the process of giving every household a debit card worth $2,000 in emergency disaster relief, he said, to be used for immediate needs such as food, clothing and personal essentials.

Also, the government is working to ensure that those people who received federal benefits prior to the hurricane can continue to receive them.

Bush also said he would work with Congress to reimburse states such as Georgia that are taking in hurricane evacuees because their budgets are strained and they "should not be penalized for showing compassion."