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Biden calls on local leaders to make use of infrastructure, COVID-19 relief funds

By Ariel Gans, Medill News Service
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Biden calls on local leaders to make use of infrastructure, COVID-19 relief funds
President Joe Biden addresses the Mayors 90th Annual Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C., Friday. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 21 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Friday encouraged local leaders to spend federal funds made available to them through COVID-19 relief and infrastructure packages.

The money, he said while speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayors at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C., is part of his administration's effort to "invest in the future."

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"I'm so tired of the middle and lower class carrying the burden," Biden said. "It's time to build the economy from the bottom up and the middle out."

He said the bipartisan infrastructure package was a good example of what can be accomplished when lawmakers tackle problems like mayors.

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"Mayors carry the quality of the people's lives on your shoulders. Everything you do, every day affects their lives more than almost anything anybody else does."

"The reason it got done is because of you," Biden said, praising a letter signed by hundreds of local leaders pushing passage of the legislation.

The White House announced some of the major projects the infrastructure funding will go toward earlier this week. The largest tranche of funds, $14 billion, will go to an Everglades rehabilitation project in Florida, while other states, including Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Michigan, will receive money to fix aging waterway infrastructure.

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Burnsville, Minn., Mayor Elizabeth B. Kautz, a Republican, said she appreciates that Biden understands the way mayors work.

"We work to solve problems, not political ideology, she said. "And so it's always refreshing for us when we listen to a president and he understands that it's not about 'R' or 'D'. It's about delivering service to the people."

Tacoma, Wash., Mayor Victoria Woodards, a Democrat, said she felt "so inspired" by Biden's speech and appreciated the support the administration is offering mayors.

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"I was sitting in between mayors, and it was like, he just gave us so much hope that we can go back and continue to fight this very difficult fight," she said. "And knowing that the President of the United States is fighting with us."

Hilo, Hawaii, Mayor Mitch Roth, an Independent, said the funding is "huge" for Hawaii, which has billions of dollars of need for infrastructure.

"We're kind of excited about the possibility of getting some of these funds to fix our much needed infrastructure," he said.

"I think most of these mayors here, if not all of these mayors, are looking at this [conference] as an opportunity to fix a lot of problems that have been kicked down the road," he added.

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"I thought a lot of what he had to say really hit home for us -- especially having funds coming directly to mayors versus going through different states first."

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