COVID-19 relief money goes to Texas police and prisons

COVID-19 relief money goes to Texas police and prisons


Illustration of a police officer standing on top of a stack of coins in a row.
Illustration: Mora Loach / Axios

Several Central Texas cities are among local governments across the country using federal COVID relief dollars to support police departments and other law enforcement efforts.

Quick catch up: Through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), President Joe Biden has given US cities and counties $350 billion to recover from the pandemic.

  • Few restrictions are placed on how local governments can spend ARPA funds.

The Big Picture: The Marshall Project have found That local governments set aside about $52.6 billion for revenue replacement, a vague blanket category, nearly half of that went to projects police, law enforcement, courts, prisons, and jails reported.

  • Less than 10% went to public health.

Zoom: Texas has directed tens of millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds to law enforcement — a shift from initial pledges to tackle health care affordability in the wake of the pandemic.

  • Across the state, millions have been earmarked to renovate prisons, modernize police buildings, and replace revenue to cover employees.
  • In Bastrop County, nearly $74,000 went to public safety services, including salaries for police and firefighters. The county also used the money to pay for rapid test kits and vaccine clinics.
  • The City of San Marcos asked for $135,000 for “Faroese systemwhich allows police to document crimes and incidents in 3D.
  • Bedford reported to the Treasury 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 money to move people incarcerated eight hours away to a special prison.

what are they saying: Nationally, Biden Embrace law enforcement spending As evidence that Democrats do not support defunding the police.

Yes, but: Much of the relief money is directed toward non-policing efforts locally.

  • Williamson County is set to receive approximately $10.9 million Payment for mental health servicesincluding funding families without insurance to help pay for psychological care for their children and building a 24-bed psychiatric ward for young people in crisis who need mental health treatment.
  • Austin used millions to support him local arts organizations and at least $10 million for housing projects and workforce services to help individuals experiencing homelessness.

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