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President Joe Biden on Friday called on cities to use funds from the American Rescue Plan to hire more police officers and strengthen public safety programs.
Speaking at an event at the White House Rose Garden with police chiefs and mayors, the president pushed local leaders to act quickly to invest in public safety ahead of the anticipated crime wave this summer.
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“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. To every governor, every mayor, every county official, the need is clear, my message is clear: Spend this money now that you have,” Biden said.
“Use these funds we made available to you to prioritize public safety,” he continued. “Do it quickly, before the 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.”
The White House announced Friday its commitment to use $10 billion in funding from the $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus package Biden signed into law in March 2021 for public safety and violence prevention. Democratic lawmakers approved $350 billion for local governments as part of the ARP. No Republican voted for the bill.
From the $10 billion, $6.5 billion was allocated for state and local fiscal recovery fund investments for more than 300 communities, including $1 billion in bonuses for front-line public safety workers and more than $2 billion on crime prevention through community violence interventions, crisis responders and mental health services.
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The remaining $3.5 billion includes nearly $1 billion for reducing domestic violence with crisis interventions and safety for victims, $1 billion for proposed investments for public safety, $1.2 billion for Medicaid Mobile Crisis Intervention Services and $1 billion in family violence prevention and services programs.
“It’s up to the cities, the towns, and the counties to spend the money and spend it now,” Biden said. “It’s there. It’s been appropriated. We know the challenges we’re facing as we head into this summer. We need to meet those challenges with a sense of urgency, which this group is doing.”
When asked by a reporter about potential actions regarding police reform, the president reiterated his stance that local officials should use more funding from the ARP for public safety efforts.
“The best way to get the reform done as quickly as possible is to go local and to make sure we invest in the police departments of local and county and city police departments,” Biden said. “Because one of the things we talked about in the Cabinet Room is that I don’t know any cop who likes a bad cop.”
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This comes amid surging crime rates in cities across the country, and now the Biden administration is attempting to portray Republicans as being less pro-law enforcement than Democrats ahead of November’s midterm elections.
The White House is claiming that Democrats are more favorable to police because Republicans on Capitol Hill did not vote for the COVID stimulus bill.
“Not a single Republican member of Congress voted for the money for law enforcement, public safety, to stabilize these — and to stabilize these budgets — not a single one — for the states, the cities, and the counties. Not one,” Biden said Friday.
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A recent poll released last month found that 61% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of crime compared to just 39% who approve. The poll also found that 49% of respondents support more funding for police and 61% favor stricter punishments for criminals.