In this photo from Jan. 19, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell speaks at a commemoration service for those who died of COVID-19 in New Orleans. (Screenshot)
WASHINGTON—Bipartisan mayors from Detroit and Miami who met at the White House on Friday with President Joe Biden emerged saying they back his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package and urged it be passed.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Republican, defended the need for $350 billion in the Biden plan for states and localities, which has been opposed by many members of the GOP in Congress. He said that Miami did not benefit that much from earlier relief legislation because the city did not meet the population threshold and “our residents got a fraction of the help they needed.”
“We still need this assistance to get through until the vaccine has gained wide acceptance,” he said.
Suarez also praised the Biden administration for paying attention to mayors and governors, saying he has spoken more often with the president and vice president in their short time in office than during the entire four years of the Trump administration.
“To me, it’s an intentional desire on their part to really plug in with mayors,” he said. He also said Biden listened to the local leaders and “I think he is going to use our input to make the bill better and to hopefully get it passed for the benefit of the American people.”
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, a Democrat, said Michigan has been “hammered” by COVID-19 and Detroit residents who had jobs a year ago are now unemployed, sheltering in their homes and worrying about getting evicted.
“Are we going to get our folks back to work in a matter of months or is it going to take years?” he asked. ”We don’t kid ourselves about the atmosphere in Washington…but we’re really hoping that for the next couple of months on this national issue that they can set partisanship aside, and the president made it clear he really wants bipartisan support for America’s rescue plan.”
Duggan and Suarez had met earlier with Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other mayors and governors from both political parties. At the outset of the meeting, Biden said “these folks are all on the front lines” and “they’ve been left on their own in many cases” to cope with the crisis. “I think the federal government has a major role to play here,” he added.
Others at the meeting were Democratic governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico; Republican governors Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Larry Hogan of Maryland; Democratic mayors Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta and LaToya Cantrell of New Orleans; and Republican Mayor Jeff Williams of Arlington, Texas.
In a statement, Cuomo, the chairman of the National Governors Association, and Hutchinson, the vice chairman, said they’ve been saying for months that flexible and direct aid for state and local governments is needed to fight the pandemic.
“During our Oval Office meeting today with President Biden, Vice President Harris, and a bipartisan group of Governors and mayors from across the country, the President and his team made clear that they recognize and appreciate how critical this targeted relief is for our ability to recover from this pandemic,” they said.
“We thank President Biden, Vice President Harris, and their team for a productive meeting and their support, and call on Congress to ensure sufficient state and local aid is included in the final relief package,” they said.
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