White House keys in on mayors and mayors-elect for D.C. forum on federal funding
President Joe Biden. (Official White House photo by Adam Schultz)
WASHINGTON — Mayors from throughout the United States will sit down with senior Biden administration officials Friday for a half-day forum on how their cities can access resources within the COVID-19 aid bill, bipartisan infrastructure law and Democrats’ signature health care and climate change package known as the Inflation Reduction Act.
The meetings, which will mostly take place at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House, are designed to help break down the hundreds of different funding programs in those “behemoth bills” and give mayors a chance to meet face-to-face with the administration leaders who can help them funnel the federal money down to their cities, officials said.
“As they’re coming into office, we just want to make sure that they know what resources are available to them, that they’re connected to our office and Intergovernmental Affairs and to also the agencies that are really leading so much of this important work,” said Julie Rodriguez, senior advisor and assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
During an interview with States Newsroom on Thursday, Rodriguez said that the White House wants to work with mayors in 2023 on implementing their “key legislative achievements.”
She also noted some of the Cabinet secretaries attending are former mayors themselves, giving them an in-depth familiarity with the process of getting access to federal resources. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, for example, who is expected to attend, is the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
The Cabinet secretaries and senior Biden administration officials also want to hear from mayors about what issues their communities are facing and what they want from the Biden administration going forward.
“We know that issues like housing are front and center for them,” Rodriguez said. “So, it really was a combination of putting forward what we see as important priorities in our agenda for 2023, but also being responsive to what we know they’re dealing with on the front lines of their city, day in and day out.”
White House officials at the Friday meeting will include Housing & Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh as well as Treasury Department Chief Recovery Officer Jacob Leibenluft, Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, Rodriguez, American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling and National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi.
Fourteen mayors will attend the forum, including Mayor Pamela Goynes-Brown of North Las Vegas, Nevada; Mayor Becky Daggett of Flagstaff, Arizona; Mayor-elect Craig Greenberg of Louisville, Kentucky; Mayor Chris Hoy of Salem, Oregon; Mayor-elect Garnett Johnson of Augusta, Georgia; Mayor-elect Phillip Jones of Newport News, Virginia; Mayor-elect Harvey Ward of Gainesville, Florida; Mayor-elect Hollies Winston of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
Rodriguez said the Biden administration wanted “a strong cross-section” of newly elected majors to attend the meeting and used that to determine which ones to invite.
“It’s sort of those that are just coming into office, to make sure they can quickly tap into the opportunities and kind of resources that the federal government is making available,” Rodriguez said.
Mayors are especially good partners for the White House, Rodriguez said, because they’re “problem solvers.”
“They’re folks who roll up their sleeves and get things done and deliver for their constituents,” Rodriguez said. “There’s not a lot of deliberation and a lot of time to try to, you know, contemplate whether or not they’re going to fix potholes. They just got to do it.”
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