President Biden has urged local leaders to help police quell the bloodletting with money they got through his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package. Biden said states should use money from the American Rescue Plan to hire police officers and crisis-intervention workers and to fund community programs focused on crime prevention. The aid package always included public safety as an expenditure available to state, city and county governments that were given $350 billion to spend on a range of programs. The White House estimates states have already used $10 billion to bulk up local police forces and fund public safety programs focused on areas such as mental health support and substance-abuse intervention, reports Courthouse News Service. The Treasury Department will release another round of funds from the American Rescue Plan this month.
“Every governor, every mayor, every county official, the need is clear: Spend this money now. Use these funds made available to prioritize public safety. Do it quickly before the summer when crime rates typically surge. Taking action today is going to save lives tomorrow,” Biden said Friday afternoon. The president’s call for leaders to increase investments in community policing and violence-intervention programs comes as crime rates and how the Democratic Party plans to address crime top voter issues in the lead-up to midterms. Concern about crime is at a six-year high. A Gallup poll in April found that 53 percent of Americans worry “a great deal” about crime rates. Several cities, including New York and Los Angeles, have increased their police budgets. The president’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year puts a heavy emphasis on ramping up funding for state and local law enforcement, increasing discretionary funding by 12 percent.