"You're on the front lines," President Obama told a gathering of 85 mayors in the East Room of the White House this morning.
Mayors and governors have to keep balanced budgets, so they are familiar with the pain that comes with making cuts that broad and deep, he said.
And when that happens, people "turn to the mayor's office for help."
That's why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides much needed assistance to states, cities, and towns that are in desperate need of it to keep from making major cuts in essential services, and to save jobs.
But more than that, by investing in health care, education, and infrastructure, the ARRA will "make our metropolitan areas more livable and sustainable."
In return, the President said he expects an unprecedented level of vigilance in making sure the money from the act is spent efficiently and wisely.
"We can't tolerate business as usual -- not in Washington, not in our state capitals, not in our cities and towns."
White House photos 2/20/09 by Pete Souza