By David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden will urge U.S. mayors on Friday to use more of their state and local COVID-19 aid funds to expand their workforces, a White House official said, an effort partly aimed at easing economic bottlenecks and inflation.
In an address to the U.S. Conference of Mayors' winter meeting on Friday in Washington, Biden will call to spend more on worker training programs, apprenticeships, education and child care to help develop a stronger workforce and reduce income inequality, the official told Reuters.
Cities have wide-ranging ability to use money from the $350 billion State and Local Fiscal Relief Fund, which was approved in last year's American Rescue Plan COVID-19 aid legislation.
The Treasury Department earlier this month issued final rules for the program that allow greater flexibility for use of the funds on programs such as early childhood education, child care and affordable housing.
The funding also allows city, county, state and tribal governments to replace revenues lost to the pandemic, invest in broadband and water infrastructure, and other uses.
The push for cities to invest more in workforces comes as the Biden administration faces pressure to control inflation. Consumer prices soared by 7% last year, the biggest annual increase in nearly 40 years https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-consumer-prices-increase-strongly-december-2022-01-12 as demand for goods and housing outstripped supply, a phenomenon which economists attribute partly to a lack of qualified workers.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Thursday that the administration and the Federal Reserve would take steps to control inflation https://www.reuters.com/business/yellen-says-fed-biden-administration-will-take-steps-control-inflation-2022-01-20, adding that it was critical for more people to return to the workforce to help ease supply pressures.
Biden is expected to emphasize the importance of having enough workers to undertake construction projects enabled by his $1.2 trillion infrastructure package, the official said.
(Reporting by David Lawder; editing by Ross Colvin and Leslie Adler)