Sep 19, 2022 - News

Texas puts COVID relief money toward police and prisons

Illustration of a police officer standing on the highest pile of coins in a row.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Texas is directing 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.

State of play: The American Rescue Plan Act put $1.9 trillion toward cities nationwide as an unprecedented opportunity to make creative, meaningful and lasting investments.

  • Some $52.6 billion went to projects that mentioned police, law enforcement, courts, jails and prisons, according to a new Marshall Project report.

Zoom in: In Texas, millions were earmarked for jail renovations, updates to police buildings and revenue replacement to cover staffing.

  • 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, President Joe Biden is embracing the law enforcement spending and using it as evidence that Democrats don't want to defund the police.

Yes, but: A lot of relief funds locally are going toward non-policing efforts.

  • Dallas College is set to get $8.7 million to pay for workforce training to boost the number of skilled workers in clinical labs, bioinformatics and biomanufacturing.
  • And neighborhood revitalization grants will fund repairs of old homes in Joppa, Historic Tenth Street and Five Mile.
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