Biden warns of massive first responder and firefighter layoffs due to local Covid budget woes

“They can’t deficit spend,” president-elect said of local governments

John T. Bennett
Washington Bureau Chief
Thursday 19 November 2020 02:28 GMT
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President-elect Joe Biden has warned that local governments soon could be forced to lay off massive numbers of emergency personnel, including firefighters, because governments at that level must balance their budgets each year but are strapped due to the coronavirus.

“I’m worried,” the incoming chief executive said on Wednesday. “The question’s going to be: when do we have to start laying off?” 

“They can’t deficit spend,” he said of local governments.

House and Senate Democrats have pushed for millions in aid to help state and local governments, but have made no headway in months-old talks with Republicans and the Trump White House about a new coronavirus relief bill.

There are no talks ongoing, sources say, despite a bipartisan agreement that people, businesses and governments need assistance.

Mr Biden lamented that 666,000 teachers have been laid off – although he did not cite a source for his figures. 

He wasn’t the only senior Democrat on Wednesday warning about public-sector layoffs.

 “This morning, New York’s MTA announced a cut to subways and buses —a flashing warning sign about how desperately we need transit relief,” said Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer of the Empire State. "We are going to fight hard for transit relief. None of it is in Leader [Mitch] McConnell’s bill."

Meanwhile, Mr Biden warned distribution of a possible eventual Covid-19 vaccine could be "behind by weeks or months" if Donald Trump does not open up the transition process to allow his incoming team information about its planning.

The overall US unemployment rate jumped to over 14 per cent in April during the initial Covid-19 wave. It has come down steadily since, with states opening up much of their economies – even though new restrictions are beginning to be put in place amid a third spike in cases and hospitalisations. At the end of October, the unemployment rate was 6.9 per cent.

Mr Trump ran for re-election on a recovering economy, although Mr Biden received over 5 million more votes nationally after pushing his “build back better” message about creating a stronger and more inclusive economy post-Covid.

Griffin Connolly contributed to this report

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