Feb. 16 (UPI) — President Joe Biden addressed a group of Democratic and Republican county officials from across the country on Tuesday afternoon at the 2022 National Association of Counties Legislative Conference at the Washington Hilton.
The conference, which began Saturday, brings together nearly 2,000 elected and appointed county officials to focus on federal policy issues that impact county residents.
“My friends, my name is Joe Biden and I was a county councilor,” Biden said. “And I ran for the Senate because it was too hard being on the board.”
Biden used the speech to highlight programs across the country that have been or will be funded — in whole or in part — by the U.S. bailout and the bipartisan Infrastructure Act.
“I urge you all to use the flexibility we’ve built into the law and spend those funds wisely, to build a future around the workers who make up the communities you lead,” he said.
The president notably cited Howard County in Maryland, which announced a plan in mid-January that would give full-time Howard County public school workers an $1,800 bonus for their work throughout 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.
“The bailout funds that we have distributed to your counties, they can help each of you build a strong and diverse workforce that you will need to support this infrastructure work so that there are more families that can get started in this booming economy,” he said.
Biden also pushed for another landmark piece of legislation, the Build Back Better plan, citing the burden childcare and prescription drug costs place on families.
“You want to benefit a family? Reduce the cost of prescription drugs they have to pay for,” Biden said. “In America, we pay the highest price for prescription drugs in the world – of any developed country in the world. About two to three times what other countries pay.
The $2 trillion social spending plan includes legislation that would reduce prescription costs, including placing a $35 cap on monthly insulin prescriptions; However, the bill faces uncertainty in Congress, as Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., said the bill was “dead” earlier this month after previously saying it would not. would not offer his decisive vote in favor of its adoption.
Biden also pointed to the fact that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and new Office of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning have already spoken to county officials at the conference.
“Do you want to know how seriously I take your role on the front line in this country? Look who I asked to come with you,” he said on Tuesday. “You said you wanted to know what was going on, I sent you all the administration.”
County officials spent the conference addressing a wide range of topics, including health care, justice reform, rural development, election law changes, immigration and law enforcement investments. recently adopted infrastructure.
“We’re just trying to simplify the process a bit,” Buttigieg told county officials Monday about distributing federal infrastructure funds, noting that his department had created about 40 new programs.
“One of the things we realize, of course, is that you don’t have the staff to go through 40 different application processes for 40 different programs. Ultimately, we need to have a better front door for local governments trying to get things.