President Joe Biden is asking cities and states to use unspent federal funds from the American Rescue Plan to invest in more cops, crisis responders, and mental health and substance abuse programs to curb crime, NBC News reports. The push comes from a recent Gallup poll where 53% of Americans now say they worry a “great deal” about lawbreaking.
This also follows Biden’s overtures to increase funding for policing in the 2023 budget. Please note that police budgets have increased, especially in cities like Los Angeles and New York, despite the uptick in crime. Things such as the ongoing pandemic, inflation, and the cost of housing are just some reasons why crime has gone up. President Biden will meet today with local elected officials, chiefs of police, and a community violence intervention expert representing U.S. cities that have previously used American Rescue Plan funds.
“One of the reasons why the president wants to speak now was both because we are approaching another summer and he wants to stress the priority of using these dollars for public safety and violence prevention,” a senior administration official said in a call with reporters.
$10 billion from the American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed in March 2021, has already been committed to public safety programs, including domestic violence prevention efforts, drug abuse, mental health services, and bonuses for hiring and retaining police officers, the White House said.
The Biden administration also notes that $6.5 billion was allocated in 2021 by 300 localities and more than half of states, including $2 billion for crime prevention programs to ease the burden on police and $1 billion for bonuses to help recruit and retain public safety workers.
Many cities would have been forced to cut back on public safety spending because of budget shortfalls after the economic impact of the pandemic without these funds. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey used funds from the ARP to build new prisons in the state.
This new push is while the Senate is currently fighting over additional COVID money to fund vaccines and tests. Maybe we can repurpose the money to drive down the costs of testing and treatment for the uninsured.