Biden tells governors to use COVID aid to boost workforces, keep schools open

President Biden called on U.S. governors Monday to use their state COVID-19 aid funds to boost worker training, keep schools open and hire more police officers.

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In remarks to the National Governors Association, Mr. Biden urged the state leaders to keep spending the money because it creates “a chance for us to come through stronger and ready to build on any progress.”

“We’ve sent you a whole hell of a lot of money and we’re going to send you more if you keep using it as well as you have,” he said.

The remarks reflect a shift in strategy for the Biden administration as it pivots away from promoting the president’s $1 trillion climate and social spending plan and toward achieving the same goals with COVID relief funds.

Mr. Biden earlier this month delivered the same message to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, urging city leaders to use the money to boost social programs and reduce inequality.

Under the $350 billion State and Local Fiscal Relief Fund, which was part of last year’s COVID-19 relief package, cities have wide latitude in using their allotments.

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The Treasury Department this month issued final rules for the funds, giving cities greater flexibility in how the money is spent.

Mr. Biden’s plea to the governors is part of the administration’s plan to get a handle on inflation. Consumer prices surged as much as 7% last year, the biggest increase in nearly 40 years.

Among the reasons for rising inflation is a lack of workers in some sectors, allowing demand to outstrip supply. Mr. Biden said using the COVID-19 relief funds to invest in workers would give some communities an economic boost.

Mr. Biden said the funds need to keep Americans at work as well as hire and train new workers.

The president ticked off a litany of ways in which states could use the funds to help workers, including hiring more police, reducing child care costs and funding paid temporary leave for workers sick from the COVID-19 virus.

He also urged the governors to use the money to keep schools open.

“There’s a lot of money out there for everything out there from dealing with ventilation to cleaning school buses and everything in between,” Mr. Biden said. “There is no reason why we can’t keep our schools open, and getting our kids to school is an essential step to getting our economy back to normal.”

He also implored governors to combat gun violence and hire more police officers with the COVID relief funds. He highlighted Michigan, Ohio and New Jersey as among the states using COVID funds to tackle crime.

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