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President Joe Biden on Friday called on cities to use U.S. bailout funds to hire more police and bolster public safety programs.
Speaking at an event at the White House Rose Garden with police chiefs and mayors, the president urged local leaders to act quickly to invest in public safety ahead of the crime wave predicted 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 that money now that you have it,” Biden said.
“Use these funds we have made available to you to prioritize public safety,” he continued. “Do it fast, before the summer when crime rates typically spike. Acting today will save lives tomorrow. So use the money. Hire the police. Build your emergency response systems. Invest in proven solutions.”
The White House on Friday announced its commitment to use $10 billion in funding from the $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus package that Biden signed into law in March 2021 for public safety and violence prevention. Democratic lawmakers approved $350 billion for local governments under the ARP. No Republican voted for the bill.
Of the $10 billion, $6.5 billion has been allocated for investments from state and local fiscal stimulus funds for more than 300 communities, including $1 billion in bonuses for frontline public safety officers and more $2 billion for crime prevention through community violence response, crisis responders and mental health services.
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The remaining $3.5 billion includes nearly $1 billion to reduce domestic violence with crisis interventions and victim safety, $1 billion for proposed public safety investments, $1.2 billion for Medicaid mobile crisis response services and $1 billion for domestic violence prevention and services programs.
“It’s up to cities, towns and counties to spend the money and spend it now,” Biden said. “He’s there. He’s been appropriate. We know the challenges we face as we head into this summer. We have to meet those challenges with a sense of urgency, which this group does.”
Asked by a reporter about potential actions regarding police reform, the president reiterated his position that local officials should use more ARP funds for public safety efforts.
“The best way to move reform forward as quickly as possible is to go to the local level and make sure that we invest in the police departments of local police departments, counties and cities,” 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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It comes as crime rates rise in cities across the country, and now the Biden administration is trying to portray Republicans as less pro-law enforcement than Democrats ahead of November’s midterm elections.
The White House says Democrats are more pro-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, for public safety, to stabilize them – and to stabilize those budgets – not one – for the states, the cities and 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 those polled favor more funding for the police and 61% favor tougher sentences for criminals.
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