U.S. President Joe Biden urged county leaders to make use of funds from the American Rescue Plan and bipartisan infrastructure law as he delivered remarks during the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference. Photo by Joshua Roberts/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 15 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden addressed a group of Democratic and Republican county officials from around the country Tuesday afternoon at the National Association of Counties 2022 Legislative Conference at the Washington Hilton.
The conference, which started on Saturday, brings together nearly 2,000 elected and appointed county officials to focus on federal policy issues that impact the counties' residents.
"Folks, my name is Joe Biden and I used to be a county councilman," Biden said. "And I ran for the Senate because it was too damn hard being in the council."
Biden used the speech to highlight programs throughout the nation that were or will be funded -- in whole or in part -- by the American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure law.
"I urge all of you to use the flexibility we built into the law and spend those funds wisely, to build a future around working people who make up the communities you run," he said.
The president particularly cited Howard County in Maryland, which announced a plan in mid-January that would give full time Howard County Public School workers a bonus of $1,800 for their work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also praised three counties in Kentucky for "expanding high-speed Internet to nearly 100,000 homes and businesses" and Cook County, Illinois, for using funds to work with Southland Metals Hub to prepare workers for manufacturing and infrastructure jobs.
"Rescue Plan funds we delivered to your counties, they can help each of you build a strong, diverse workforce you'll need to take up and take on these infrastructure jobs so that there are more families that can deal themselves into this booming economy," he said.
Biden also pushed for another piece of signature legislation, the Build Back Better plan, citing the burden that costs for childcare and prescription drugs place on families.
"You want to benefit a family? Reduce the cost of prescription drugs that they have to pay," Biden said. "In America, we pay the highest price for prescription drugs in teh world -- of any developed nation in the world. About two to three times what other countries pay."
The $2 trillion social spending plan features legislation that would bring down prescription costs, including placing a $35 cap on monthly insulin prescriptions, however, the bill faces uncertainty in Congress as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said the bill was "dead" earlier this month after previously stating he would not offer his pivotal vote in favor of its passage.
Biden also called out the fact that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and new Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning have already spoken to county officials at the conference.
"You want to know how seriously I take the role you play on the frontlines in this country? Just look at who I asked to come with you," he said Tuesday. "You said you want to know what's going on, I sent you the whole damn administration."
County officials have spent the conference tackling a wide range of topics, including healthcare, justice reform, rural development, election law changes, immigration and investment from the recently passed infrastructure law.
"We're just trying to make the process a little bit simpler," Buttigieg told the county officials on Monday about distributing the federal infrastructure funds, noting that his department has created about 40 new programs.
"One of the things that we realize, of course, is that you don't have the staff to navigate 40 different application processes for 40 different programs. The bottom line is, we need to have a better front door for local governments trying to get things."