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Mayors are more worried about your mental health than whether or not their cities are dead

Forget worries about budgets or people fleeing cities. America's mayors are most worried about the deeper impacts of the pandemic. ...
Bill de Blasio
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in March 2021.

  • A survey of 126 mayors found that the majority are worried about mental health.
  • But they aren't as worried about remote work or people leaving their cities, showing that cities are just fine.
  • Instead, the next challenge for local leaders is contending with the pandemic's deeper damages.

It's been a tumultuous two years to be a mayor. When the pandemic first hit in spring 2020, local officials were suddenly thrust into making a bevy of public health and economic decisions, as the virus swept across the country, Americans went into lockdowns, and millions lost their jobs.

Now, as the country creeps toward endemicity — and vaccines are widely available — mayors face the next step of recovery. Many people have bemoaned the death of the city, as Americans migrated and cities' booming restaurants and entertainment had to shutter. But a new survey of 126 mayors from 39 states reveals that reports about the death of their cities may be overblown; instead, they're more concerned about mental health.

The 2021 Menino Survey of Mayors (named after former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who helmed the city for a historic five terms) surveyed mayors in cities with at least 75,000 residents. The mayors were asked what the long-term implications of the pandemic they were worried about — and a whopping 52% answered mental health/trauma, the highest percentage among all categories.

It's not a secret or shock that the pandemic also wrought a mental health crisis, as people around the world dealt with uncertainty, grief, and fear on a scale many had never felt before. That crisis probably won't go anywhere anytime soon; it's also been felt unevenly, with women and older adults more likely to report worsening mental health, according to researchers at University of Michigan.

Mental health may be playing a larger role in the current economy and its labor crunches. In an EY survey, over half of 1,010 respondents said they'd left jobs because bosses weren't empathetic to personal and professional struggles. Workers who are part of the Great Resignation have cited mental health as one reason for quitting. And workers in industries like retail — which is one main driver of the record number of workers quitting, and also remains one of the country's lowest-paid industries — are switching out of their jobs in pursuit of a lesser evil.

Mayors also aren't immune to burnout and the Great Resignation: The New York Times reported that the local leaders were exhausted, with many opting not to run for new terms.

Mayors aren't as worried about money or migration

In contrast, just 7% said they were worried about a shift to remote work, and only 2% were worried about people migrating out.

President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan helped buttress local governments, easing mayors' concerns in 2020 over budget cuts. That package contained $350 billion in state and local aid, with about $65 billion ultimately going to cities.

"With direct local aid, New York City can be made whole again," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in early 2021. But 78% of mayors said that ARPA funding will "will allow them to accomplish transformative aims," per the survey, and 18% expect to use the money "to fill gaps in normal expenditures." Localities are also poised to have another influx of targeted infrastructure spending from the recently-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill.

Those billions may have eased pressures on mayors to balance their books in an uncertain economic era. Instead, the next challenge to tackle is the more deep-seated damages — mayors ranked learning loss and financial insecurity as main concerns behind mental health.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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