President Joe Biden will urge states and cities to use unspent money from last year's $1.9 trillion Covid relief package to fund crime prevention programs and hire police officers.
Biden is expected to stress the need for more funding for public safety programs at an event with mayors and law enforcement officials Friday at the White House.
Since the start of the coronaviruses, a number of major cities have reported surges in crime rates. The White House said it is urging local governments to spend more money before the summer months, when there has historically been more violent crime compared to the winter months.
The president wants to emphasize the priority of using these dollars for public safety and violence prevention, and that is one of the reasons why he wants to speak now, a senior administration official said in a call with reporters.
The White House said that at least $10 billion from the American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed in March 2021, has already committed to public safety programs, including domestic violence prevention efforts, drug abuse and mental health services, and bonuses for hiring and retaining police officers.
In 2021, 300 localities and more than half of the states allocated $2 billion for crime prevention programs to help reduce the burden on police and $1 billion for bonuses to recruit and retain public safety workers, according to the White House.
Without those funds, many cities would have to cut back on public safety spending because of budget shortfalls due to the economic impact of the pandemic and the additional costs it imposes on local governments, the White House said.
The rescue plan has been used to help governors, mayors and other local leaders respond to and recover from the Pandemic.
Republicans want to make it a key issue in the midterm elections, as crime continues to rise in some parts of the country, accusing Democrats of being in favor of defunding police departments.
Biden, who has pushed back against that narrative, claims that he is for police funding and has accused Republicans of supporting cuts to police budgets, citing their opposition to the American Rescue Plan.
The White House said in a statement that the American Rescue Plan has allowed these mayors and other state and local leaders to shore up their budgets and invest in public safety. Every Republican in Congress voted against the American Rescue Plan, which allows the public safety funding for cities and rural counties across the country. The Biden administration has been looking to tout the Covid relief bill as one of the president's top policy achievements as well as the $550 billion infrastructure package, as it makes the case to keep Democrats in power ahead of the elections this fall.
In his remarks Friday, Biden wants states and local communities to spend the Covid relief money on putting more police officers on the beat for accountable community policing, expanding evidence-based community violence intervention programs, and making our neighborhoods stronger with more educational and economic opportunities, and making our neighborhoods stronger, the White House said.