Biden Urges Local Leaders to Spend Covid Relief Funds on Police, Anti-Crime Efforts

Biden Urges Local Leaders to Spend Covid Relief Funds on Police, Anti-Crime Efforts


President Joe Biden on Friday urged state and local officials to use unspent Covid-19 relief money to hire more police officers and fund anticrime efforts.

The White House said that $10 billion from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which the president signed into law last year, has been committed to public safety spending at the state and local level, and Biden encouraged officials to use the money right away.

“My message is clear,” Biden said at a meeting in the Rose Garden with local officials including mayors and chiefs of police. “Use these funds we made available to you to prioritize public safety. Do it quickly before this summer when crime rates typically surge. Taking action today is going to save lives tomorrow. So use the money, hire the police officers, build up your emergency response systems, invest in proven solutions,” Biden said.

In a fact sheet, the White House highlighted the ways in which the $10 billion in public safety funds from the ARP have been committed, including $1 billion for bonuses for front-line public safety workers; more than $2 billion for crime prevention; nearly $1 billion to prevent domestic abuse; and $450 million for new equipment such as cars, radio systems and body cameras.

An eye on November: The effort to boost the police and crime prevention comes as Democrats look ahead to what could be a very difficult mid-term election cycle, in which crime joins the economy as a leading issue that could determine the outcome.  

Fear of crime has been edging higher according to a Gallup poll released in April, with 53% of Americans saying they worry about crime and violence a great deal, the highest level since 2016. Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the U.S. homicide rate from gun violence rose 35% in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. It was the highest level since 1994.

While a handful of progressives to Biden’s left have called for significant reforms to policing in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer in 2020, under the banner of “defund the police,” Biden has made it clear that he has no sympathy for that approach. In his State of the Union address in March, Biden said the “answer is not to defund the police. It's to fund the police. Fund them. Fund them.”