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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Dire budget problems in cities from coast to coast mean that furloughs and layoffs of essential workers could ring in the new year. So President-elect Joe Biden will face instant, high-stakes calls for relief. 

Why it matters: Suffering municipalities say there's no way they can tackle COVID-19 and all their other problems without direct and immediate aid.

"If we don't see this relief package, it's going to be hard for us to keep the lights on" and continue responding to 911 calls, says Joe Buscaino, president of the National League of Cities and president pro tempore of the Los Angeles City Council.

  • City leaders — mostly Democrats, but not all — are ecstatic because they see the Biden administration as a friendly one that will keep their concerns front and center.
  • Many are elated by Biden's choice of Julie Chávez Rodriguez, a Biden deputy campaign manager who previously advised Kamala Harris' presidential campaign, as director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.
  • Biden's first elected office, in 1970, was on the New Castle County Council in Delaware. "He gets us, he understands us," Buscaino said. "The Trump administration really did not have a direct commitment to local elected officials."

Where it stands: Both the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the National League of Cities have put out priority lists for the incoming administration, which include perennial wanna-haves like building infrastructure and affordable housing, workforce training, and reducing gun violence.

  • But the urgency of addressing COVID-19 surmounts and supplements these lists.
  • "We don't have any other choice but to do it at once," says Ras Baraka, the mayor of Newark, N.J.

There's a lot of ground to be made up, municipal officials say. "We’ve lacked a domestic policy in this country for the last four years," Mayor William Peduto of Pittsburgh tells Axios.

Addressing structural racism also tops the priority list. "The most glaring and persistent of our entrenched problems is racism, a complex, self-defeating system of beliefs and behaviors grounded in the presumed superiority of the white race," per the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

  • To address this, "we must engage both the government and the private sector in efforts to dismantle the accumulation and incorporation of long-standing racialized practices.”

What they're saying: Mayors say the Biden administration will respect them and acknowledge the role of cities as drivers of America’s economic growth.

  • "The number one priority has to be the approval of a stimulus package for our cities," Peduto says. "You can’t allow the centers of our nation’s domestic productivity to be in financial straits or facing bankruptcy."
  • Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Ohio, wants a "true infrastructure bill" and an immediate pandemic relief bill. She's concerned about the expiration of evictions moratoria on December 31.
  • "Just the fact that we’ll have a partner in the White House will be very welcome," says Mayor David Holt of Oklahoma City. "That’s not a policy item, but it makes all the other policy items possible."

Go deeper

Legacy civil rights groups: Biden's transition needs to include us

President-elect Joe Biden at the NAACP 110th National Convention last year. Photo: Bill Pugliano via Getty

Prominent civil rights leaders are concerned that President-elect Joe Biden is deciding his administration without their input, NBC News reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: As Biden looks to deliver his promise of forming a diverse administration, he will have to contend with different factions of the liberal movement that might pull him in different directions.

What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.

1 hour ago - Podcasts

Faces of COVID creator on telling the stories of those we've lost

America yesterday lost 2,762 people to COVID-19, per the CDC, bringing the total pandemic toll to 272,525. That's more than the population of Des Moines, Iowa. Or Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Or Toledo, Ohio.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with Alex Goldstein, creator of the @FacesofCOVID Twitter account, about sharing the stories behind the statistics.

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