The task of rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina is a chance to wipe out poverty and remnants of racial injustice, US President George W Bush has said.
Bush has vowed to rebuild New Orleans 'whatever it takes'
He said those hit hardest by the hurricane were already impoverished because of years of discrimination.
"As we clear away the debris of a hurricane, let us also clear away the legacy of inequality," Mr Bush said at a memorial service in Washington.
His administration has been heavily criticised for its response to Katrina.
Mr Bush has said he accepts that his government did not deal adequately with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated a vast area on the southern coast.
His approval ratings have slumped to the lowest point of his presidency, with only about 40% of voters expressing confidence in him.
Continuing conflict in Iraq and rising fuel prices were affecting his support even before Hurricane Katrina struck on 29 August, correspondents say.
The confirmed death toll from the hurricane has risen to 792.
The president joined worshippers in a service at the national cathedral in Washington as part of a day of prayer to remember the victims.
"Americans of every race and religion were touched by this storm, yet some of the greatest hardship fell upon citizens already facing lives of struggle: the elderly, the vulnerable, and the poor," he said.
Later, at a news conference, he ruled out raising taxes to pay for reconstruction along the devastated Gulf Coast.
But he indicated the programme, which White House officials say could cost up to $200bn, might be partially funded by spending cuts in other areas.
"You bet it will cost money, but I'm confident we can handle it," he said.
In an address from New Orleans on Thursday, Mr Bush promised the US government would do and spend whatever it takes to rebuild the hurricane-hit area.
'Time for prayer over'
The day of prayer has been criticised by several pastors.
Many places of worship were taking part, but several others said they had already held their services.
"Not to be critical, but the president is a little late," Rev Reginald Jackson, president of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey, was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying.
Rev Enoch Fuzz, president of the Interdenominational Ministers Fellowship, which represents about 100 Tennessee pastors, said the effort now should be on action, not praying.
Gulf opportunity zone Immediate incentives for job-creating investment
Recovery accounts Up to $5,000 help for job-seekers, for training, childcare etc
Urban homesteading act Federal-owned land handed out in a lottery for new homebuilding
"We need a prayer that's walking and not just talking," Rev Fuzz told AP. "We need a prayer with legs right now."
New Orleans residents will be allowed to return to some parts of the city from next week, allowing about a third of its 485,000 people back home.
Mayor Ray Nagin said the first section to re-open to residents would be Algiers on Monday. The city's outlying areas would follow in stages next Wednesday and Friday.
It is thought that around 40% of the city is still rotting under the fetid flood waters.