Keisha Lance Bottoms praises mayors meeting with Biden-Harris, but shares her concerns

EXCLUSIVE: Atlanta Mayor Lance Bottoms said she laid out what her city needs from the White House as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across American cities

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Amid a new administration, there’s now a clear difference in politicians’ attitudes when it comes to the potential fixes from the White House for the multitude of crises that have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It was wonderful, April, to just know that there was an empathetic and warm air in the room — and we had two of them,” said Atlanta Mayor Keshia Lance Bottoms after a meeting on Friday at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D-GA) looks on as President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris meet with governors and mayors in the Oval Office in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, to discuss the vital need to pass the American Rescue Plan. (Photo by Pete Marovich/Pool/Getty Images)

President Biden and Vice President Harris met with local political leaders for over an hour at the White House on the American Rescue Plan. The meeting that extended beyond the scheduled time consisted of a bipartisan group including Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan, Democratic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Democratic Mayor Francis Suarez of Miami, Florida, Democratic Mayor of New Orleans Latoya Cantrell, Democratic Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and others.

After the session, Lance Bottoms spoke exclusively with theGrio. She said the meeting was about need over politics.

“Not political at all … Our concerns and needs were all the same. We want assistance for our communities. We want vaccines for our communities. We want to be able to get our people back to work,” said Lance Bottoms.

Her top issues for President Biden was expanding vaccine access and cutting into the numbers of increasing crimes, particularly assaults.

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U.S. President-elect Joe Biden talks with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms after a drive-in rally for U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock at Pullman Yard on December 15, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

As she recalled the contents of the meeting and all the leaders and their asks of the administration, President Biden said they had “only been in office for three weeks.” Lance Bottoms made it clear she has been pleased with the efforts of the Biden-Harris administration thus far, however, with the expectation and the hope that more will be done and is on the way.  

When it comes to issues of the meeting and the immediate needs from ARP, Mayor Lance Bottoms said, “We need vaccines, we need vaccines, we need vaccines. There’s a lot of talk about distrust in the African-American community that is real. But Morehouse School of Medicine tells me they have 6,000 people on their waiting list alone.

“So there are people throughout the community who want to receive a vaccine. They just can’t get it. So the sooner we can ramp up production and get vaccines into our cities, to our communities, states, the better. And I know that President Biden hears that loud and clear.”  

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Specifics on vaccine data is needed to help the underserved and others in her jurisdiction.

“One of the challenges that we have is that we don’t have accurate or granular data tracking in our state. I can’t tell you how many people in my city have been vaccinated,” she added.

(Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Lance Bottoms also said she’d like to see “flexibility with who gets the vaccine,” pointing out that in one county in Georgia was suspended from receiving vaccines after a group of school teachers had been vaccinated before they were supposed to based on the Department of Health guidelines.

“So we all have very different wants and needs and any flexibility that we can have would be appreciated. Nobody knows our communities better than we do. We know what the needs are. But we also need to know where the needs are, which is why I asked for the data traffic,” said Lance Bottoms.

When it comes to the increased crime numbers across the nations, the Atlanta mayor said other mayors have shared their concerns. “It goes back to the mental health and emotional piece of it. We talk about the physical recovery, but, you know, suicides are up. We know that people are experiencing very difficult situations right now and many people don’t have the skills needed to address those situations in a healthy way,” she said.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom
(Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images for City Of Hope)

“It’s playing out in our streets. So the sooner that we can get support to our communities, the sooner we can get vaccines in our communities, we can get our kids back in school, we can get people back to work, and we can begin the holistic recovery that a country needs.”

A priority for the Biden/Harris administration is the proposed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that includes items like money for vaccines and an extension on unemployment benefits. The administration has continued outreach on the plan.

Mayor Lance Bottoms said she recently was part of a teleconference with the vice president and mayors from the African American Mayors Association on the same issue.

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