March 23, 2023

California cities spent huge share of federal Covid relief funds on police

Records reveal that some cities gave more stimulus money to law enforcement than to health,...

Records reveal that some cities gave more stimulus money to law enforcement than to health, housing and food initiatives

Big cities in California spent large portions of their federal Covid relief money on police departments, a review of public records has revealed, with several cities prioritizing police funding by a wide margin.

As part of the American Rescue Plan Act (Arpa), the Biden administration’s signature stimulus package, the US government sent funds to cities to help them fight coronavirus and support local recovery efforts. The money, officials said, could be used to fund a range of services, including public health and housing initiatives, healthcare workers’ salaries, infrastructure investments and aid for small businesses.

San Francisco received $312m in Arpa funds for fiscal year 2020 and allocated 49% ($153m) to police, 13% ($41m) to the sheriff’s department, and the remainder to the fire department, according to the city controller. San Francisco also gave roughly 22% ($38.5m) of its Cares funds to law enforcement.

Los Angeles spent roughly 50% of its first round of Arpa relief funds on the LAPD, according to a public records request by the controller candidate Kenneth Mejia, and first reported in local news site LA Taco.

Fresno spent $36.6m of its Cares funds on the police, making up 67% of Cares spending on city salaries, and roughly 40% of all of Fresno’s Cares funds.

San Jose allocated roughly $27.8m of its Cares and Arpa funds to police salaries and the police dispatch department, representing about 12% of its relief money.

Long Beach allocated the majority of its $135.8 million Arpa funds to police, though a spokesperson said a detailed breakdown of funds was not available.

Oakland allocated $5m (13.5%) of its Cares funds to police salaries; Sacramento allocated $2.2m (2.5%) of Cares funds to police; and San Diego spent roughly $60.1m (64%) of its Cares funds on police in fiscal year 2020, and $52.6m (33%) in fiscal year 2021.

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