Sep 16, 2022 - News

How South Florida cities use COVID money to fund police

A police officer stands on a stack of coins.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Several South Florida cities are among the local governments nationwide using federal COVID recovery funding to shore up their police departments and other law enforcement efforts.

Driving the news: 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 Marshall Project found that around $52.6 billion has been categorized as "revenue replacement," a vague catch-all category, while nearly half of that went to projects that mentioned police, law enforcement, courts, jails and prisons.

  • Less than 10% went to "public health."

Of note: Biden has pointed to ARPA to show that Democrats don't want to "defund the police," the Marshall Project reports.

Zoom in: Florida got $8.8 billion in ARPA funding. Through a partnership with The Marshall Project, Axios found that:

  • Hollywood spent $4 million to upgrade its police and fire rescue radio system, and $700,000 on premium pay for police and firefighters as "essential workers."
  • Aventura received $1.3 million to pay for a new BearCat Armored Response Vehicle, police tasers, license-plate readers and radio system upgrades.
  • Coral Springs received $43,000 for ballistic rifle plates — a type of body armor — for fire and EMS workers.

Yes, but: Cities also used the federal COVID funds for projects like sewer repairs and housing.

  • Hollywood, which got $29 million, said it's using $500,000 for an affordable housing project and $300,000 for its small-business assistance program.
  • Aventura, which got $18 million, budgeted $5.4 million to upgrade city parks with artificial turf, new lighting, and tennis and pickleball courts, according to city data. Another $1.75 million will pay for stormwater pipe replacement.

What they're saying: "Aventura is using ARPA funds to invest in the things that are most important to our residents — our parks, infrastructure, and public safety," said city spokesperson Evan Ross.

  • "Public safety expenditures were highlighted as part of the funding program, so in Hollywood that was our focus," said Hollywood spokesperson Joann Hussey.

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