For the first time in decades, the White House has a president and vice president with county government experience, the National Association of Counties (NACo) recently noted. President Joe Biden's resume includes two years on the New Castle County Council in Delaware, while Vice President Kamala Harris served two terms as district attorney for the City and County of San Francisco.
Biden talked about his county government experience during a meeting with the NACo board of directors in December. The then-incoming president called county officials "the single most consequential government officials" and said that working closely with county officials would be a priority for his administration, NACo's County News reported.
"You're also the basis upon which people have faith or don't have faith in government,” Biden said. "What you do, whether you’re responsive or not makes them wonder whether government is responsive or not. I think, with all due respect, you sometimes underestimate your consequence."
Biden recognized the critical front-line role counties have played during the coronavirus pandemic. "You haven't made it a partisan issue. It's about the health of your residents," he said, saying he sees "a strong sense of common purpose" for dealing with COVID-19.
"There's a strong consensus that we need to move forward in a coordinated way on implementing what works, including federal guidance on universal masking, expanded testing, delivering economic relief to counties, cities, states and their communities sooner, rather than later and with greater flexibility for you all to shore up your budgets and meet your needs — this includes clearer guidance for reimbursements on COVID testing and treatment," he said.
In addition to hearing from Biden, the NACo board of directors approved 10 national policy priorities for 2021:
- Advocate for additional federal COVID-19 relief in the form of direct, flexible aid to counties of all sizes.
- Restore the balance of federalism and optimize intergovernmental partnerships.
- Promote county infrastructure priorities.
- Promote mental health and substance use treatment and address essential criminal justice reforms.
- Boost advanced broadband deployment and accessibility while preserving local decision-making.
- Support full funding for Payments in Lieu of Taxes and the Secure Rural Schools programs.
- Promote county priorities in future Environmental Protection Agency and other federal rule-making.
- Strengthen election security and safety.
- Enhance community resilience through regional and local disaster preparedness.
- Promote workforce opportunities and supportive services for county residents in changing economies.