President-elect Joe Biden on Monday told an audience of mayors from across the United States that his White House will aim to be a stronger partner to cities than the outgoing Trump administration has been, especially as the country suffers through the toughest months of the COVID-19 pandemic yet.
Speaking from Wilmington, Delaware, to members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Biden said that cities have been at the forefront of the health crisis, and that they need greater economic assistance than what the federal government’s furnished so far.
“All of you have been on the front lines from the very beginning, and as we head into this Thanksgiving and a very dark winter, with cases and hospitalizations and deaths spiking, I want you to know that we’re here for you and we’ll listen to you and work with you,” Biden said.
About 50 mayors joined the Zoom conference with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, including Bill de Blasio of New York, Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Sylvester Turner of Houston, Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta, Kate Gallego of Phoenix and Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. Some, including Bottoms and Garcetti, have appeared in speculation about being picked to join Biden’s Cabinet.
Since the March passage of a $2 trillion relief package that provided state and local governments with limited funds to pay for their pandemic responses, the federal government has remained stuck on whether or not to provide additional aid. Meanwhile, states and cities have been pleading for more funds to patch up state budgets that have been tattered by revenue shortfalls caused by the pandemic’s economic slowdown.
While the Democratic-led House approved a $2.2 trillion bill in September, including $436 billion for state and local governments to shore up their budgets, the Senate has rebuffed that measure, instead crawling toward a smaller package that does not include state and local aid. Biden, who has said he’d like to see another relief bill pass before he’s sworn in Jan. 20, said over the weekend he supports the Democrats’ position.
During his appearance with the mayors Monday, Biden said aggressive stimulus is needed to cover the wide range of issues for which cities are directly responsible, including upcoming vaccine distribution, mitigating climate change and closing broadband gaps. Biden recalled his oversight in 2009, when he served as vice president, of the Obama administration’s stimulus act during the Great Recession.
“The first thing I did was go to the mayors,” he said. “I spoke with 200 mayors to get the stimulus funding out to cities all across the country.”
Harris echoed Biden’s flattery of the mayors.
“You are the ones that take the heat on a daily basis, and in that way you have been carrying an enormous burden of responsibility during the crises that we have been experiencing,” she said.
Biden’s and Harris’ remarks Monday follow on a similar address the president-elect gave Friday to the National League of Cities. In both appearances, he said he intends for his administration to be accessible to cities, and noted the role that will be played by Julie Chavez Rodriguez, a former Harris aide who will head the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
“Today is not a one-off meeting,” Biden said. “The Biden-Harris administration will have an open door for mayors. This country was built from the bottom up.”