Job losses and fear about what lies ahead persists on Main Street America, despite official pronouncements that the 'Great Recession' ended over a year ago, the head of a U.S. mayors group said this week. The group was in Washington to lobby President Obama and federal officials for billions of dollars in grants and investments.
Despite what national economists are saying, the recession is not over for Main Street America, said Elizabeth Kautz, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which represents more than 1,000 mayors from the largest U.S cities.
Kautz was joined by the Mayors of Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and others at a press conference in Washington on Thursday. Over 230 mayors are attending the group's annual conference.
Every day, mayors hear from constituents who have lost their jobs and people who are desperately afraid of what lies ahead. she said. Kautz is the mayor of Burnsville, Minnesota.
The National Bureau of Economic Research, which officially declares when a recession begins and ends, said the latest recession ended in June of 2009.
The mayors' top priority is for no less than $4 billion in federal money for the Community Development Block Grant program in Fiscal year 2012, a program which funds local and state projects which assist millions of low and moderate income households and individuals.
Funds for green jobs through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program are also a priority, with $3.2 billion provided in 2009 by the federal government's spending stimulus law.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said mayors were advocating for investment in our cities, for the partnership for a time in America where the economy is where it is and the opportunities for growth are in our metropolitan areas.
Mayors were also seeking funds for new transportation infrastructure projects related to roads, rail, and buses. Federal money to leverage private investments through the TIGER programs should be continued, as well as money for high-speed rail and highway repair, they said.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daly said he believed there's a change coming here in America due to the recession, struggling housing market and high unemployment.
I think America's going to roll up their sleeves, admit we have our problems, he said. And I really believe that the salvation will be and the answers are right here with the mayors because we've seen it, we've done it.
Another priority is urging the federal government to not impose unfunded mandates, which call for action without funding in place to deal with issues related to sewers, storm water regulations, brownfield redevelopment and clean air.
No U.S. metro area will return to pre-recession levels before 2013, the conference said, highlighting findings from a report by IHS Global Insight. U.S. metro areas contain 85 percent of all the people in the country.
Unemployment in 2011 will top 10 percent in just under a third of all U.S. metro areas, the report found. The jobless rate will top 8 percent in under two thirds of all metro areas by the end of the year.
Metro areas also generate an overwhelming majority - about 90 percent - of the nation's goods and services, as well as wage and salary income. They also provide about 86 percent of the jobs.
These numbers show that without a robust economic recovery in metropolitan areas, there can be no national recovery. Our cities and our metro economies are the centers of our national economy. We ignore them at our own peril, Kautz said.