COVID-19 relief money goes to Texas cops and jails

COVID-19 relief money goes to Texas cops and jails

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Several cities in Central Texas are among local governments across the country using federal COVID relief funds to bolster their police departments and other law enforcement efforts.

Catch up fast: Through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), President Joe Biden has given US cities and counties $350 billion to recover from the pandemic.

  • Few limits were placed on how local governments could spend ARPA funds.

The big picture: The Marshall Project found that local governments allocated about $52.6 billion to revenue replacement, a vague catch-all category, and almost half of that went to projects that mentioned police, law enforcement order, courts, prisons and prisons.

  • Less than 10% went to public health.

Enlarge: Texas has directed tens of millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds to law enforcement — a shift from initial promises to address health care affordability in the wake of the pandemic.

  • Across the state, millions have been allocated to renovate prisons, update police buildings and replace revenue to cover staffing.
  • In Bastrop County, nearly $74,000 was spent on public safety services, including salaries for police officers and firefighters. The county also used funds to pay for rapid test kits and vaccination clinics.
  • The city of San Marcos requested $135,000 for a “FARO system,” which allows police to document crimes and accidents in 3D.
  • Bedford has submitted a report to the Treasury Department to use more than $800,000 to upgrade its law enforcement center with improved secure storage for ballistic vests, patrol rifles and charging stations for cameras worn on the body.
  • In Harris County, commissioners approved $25 million in ARPA funds to transfer those incarcerated eight hours away to a private jail.

What they say : Nationally, Biden sees law enforcement spending as evidence that Democrats don’t support defunding the police.

Yes, but: Many relief funds go to local non-police efforts.

  • Williamson County is set to get nearly $10.9 million to pay for mental health services, including funding families without insurance to help pay for their children’s psychiatric care and building a 24-hour psychiatric ward. beds for youth in crisis and in need of mental health treatment. .
  • Austin has used millions to support local arts organizations and at least $10 million for housing projects and labor services to help homeless people.

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