COVID-19 relief money goes to Texas cops and prisons
Several Central Texas cities are among local governments nationwide using federal COVID relief dollars to shore up their police departments and other law enforcement efforts.
Catch up quick: Through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), President Joe Biden gave U.S. cities and counties $350 billion to recover from the pandemic.
- Few limitations were put on how local governments could spend ARPA funds.
The big picture: The Marshall Project found that local governments have allocated around $52.6 billion for revenue replacement, a vague catch-all category, and nearly half of that went to projects that mentioned police, law enforcement, courts, jails and prisons.
- Less than 10% went to public health.
Zoom in: Texas directed tens of millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief money toward law enforcement — a shift from initial pledges to address affordability of health care in the wake of the pandemic.
- Across the state, millions were earmarked for jail renovations, updates to police buildings and revenue replacement to cover staffing.
- In Bastrop County, nearly $74,000 went toward public safety services, including the salaries of police and fire officials. The county also used funds to pay for rapid test kits and vaccine clinics.
- The city of San Marcos requested $135,000 for a "FARO system," which allows police to document crimes and crashes in 3D.
- Bedford 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 body-worn cameras.
- In Harris County, commissioners approved $25 million in ARPA funds to transfer incarcerated people eight hours away to a private prison.
What they're saying: At the national level, Biden is embracing the law enforcement spending as evidence that Democrats don't support defunding the police.
Yes, but: A lot of relief funds are going toward non-policing efforts locally.
- Williamson County is set to get nearly $10.9 million to pay for mental health services, including funding for families without insurance to help pay for their children's psychiatric care and construction of a 24-bed psychiatric wing for youth in crisis and in need of mental health treatment.
- Austin used millions to support local arts organizations and at least $10 million for housing projects and workforce services to help individuals experiencing homelessness.
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