By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden will meet with a bipartisan group of mayors and governors on Friday as he continues to push for approval of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan to bolster economic growth and help millions of unemployed workers.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will also receive an economic briefing from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, shortly after she takes part in the first meeting of the Group of Seven rich economies since the new U.S. administration took office.
Biden’s proposed spending package, coming on top of $4 trillion enacted by his predecessor Donald Trump, will have important consequences for the global economy which is slowly recovering – but very unevenly – after last year suffering its worst downturn since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Taking part in the Oval Office meeting will be Republican and Democratic elected officials whose states and cities have been hammered by the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout. Many have seen tax revenues fall and costs soar as they race to vaccinate their citizens.
The group includes four governors, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, and five mayors, including Jeff Williams of Arlington, Texas, a Republican.
Williams, who met with Yellen virtually last week, said his city urgently needed the federal aid earmarked for state and local governments in Biden’s rescue plan. He said cities were crushed when Congress removed similar aid from a previous relief bill that passed in December.
“We’ve been crippled. We haven’t gotten help,” Williams told Reuters. “Our property taxes are down and costs are way up. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, this is the right solution so we can achieve economic growth much faster.”
Arlington, which is home to the largest General Motors plant in the world, is bracing for a 10% drop in the appraised value of its commercial properties, which would cut revenues by some $30 million after an $18 million loss last year, Williams said.
More than 400 mayors wrote to leaders in Congress earlier this month to urge them to pass Biden’s relief package, but Republicans are backing a far less ambitious plan.
Biden on Thursday said the U.S. coronavirus death toll was likely to reach 500,000 next month, but said the United States was on track to have enough vaccine for 300 million Americans by the end of July.
Yellen, a former Federal Reserve Board Chair, will have a mixed message when she briefs Biden on the economy. While economic growth is picking up, unemployment remains high and many communities of color are not expected to recover for years.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)