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400 mayors endorse Biden COVID relief plan, local aid money

The mayors, who come from across the political spectrum, say they are on the front lines of the health care battle and need the financial resources to fight it.

More than 400 U.S. mayors across party lines are calling on congressional leaders to adopt President Joe Biden's COVID-19 relief plan. In particular, they note the need for direct financial help to their cities -- something the Democratic president's plan includes but a Republican counter-proposal does not.

Members of the United States Conference of Mayors wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., saying that their cities have been trying to fight a public health battle but with limited financial resources.

"The lack of adequate support has resulted in budget cuts, service reductions, and job losses. Sadly, nearly one million local government jobs have already been lost during the pandemic. Our essential workers deserve federal relief like any other sector," the letter read.

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Biden's $1.9 trillion proposal includes $350 billion in direct aid to state and local governments to help keep police, fire and other public-sector workers on the job. A $618 billion proposal by Senate Republicans did not include any direct relief to state and local governments. There has been strong resistance in the GOP to such assistance, with many arguing it would reward states for poor fiscal management.

"The $350 billion in direct relief to state and local governments included in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan would allow cities to preserve critical public sector jobs and help drive our economic recovery," the mayors wrote. "Providing direct, flexible aid to cities is the most efficient and immediate way to help families and their communities who have been suffering for far too long."

Both proposals provide $160 billion to boost vaccinations and COVID-19 testing, essentially allowing the country to launch vaccination centers, purchase more rapid tests, expand lab capacity and buy personal protective equipment for first responders. The mayors said those resources are necessary.

Among other differences between the plans, the Biden proposal calls for $1,400 checks for individuals earning less than $75,000. The amount would be $2,800 for couples earning less than $150,000.

The 10 GOP senators seek $1,000 checks. They would go to individuals earning less than $40,000 a year and would begin phasing out with a hard cap at $50,000 a year. The payment would increase to $2,000 for couples earning up to $80,000 and phase out with a hard cap at $100,000 a year.

Biden's plan also calls for more unemployment aid, assistance for schools and child care help than the GOP proposal. It also calls for boosting the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour.

Both sides met at The White House Monday to discuss the next steps. No compromise was reached from the lengthy session, Biden's first with lawmakers at the White House. But the Republicans said there was agreement to keep discussions going over their smaller, more targeted package that would do away with Democratic priorities but might win GOP support and appeal to Biden's hopes to unify the country. 

Click here to read the full letter and see who signed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Credit: AP
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on health care, in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)