The Biden Administration encouraged state and local government officials to use their American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to improve public safety. The memo published on Monday urges officials to invest in community policing efforts and to stem the flow of firearms.
Citing the Administration’s comprehensive strategy released last month to prevent and respond to gun crime and ensure public safety, the White House memo encourages state and local officials to take a multifaceted approach to improving public safety. Some of those activities include using evidence-based community violence interventions, expanding summer programming and employment opportunities for youths, and hiring additional police officers.
“Since the President’s plan was launched, leaders across the country have already responded by taking up or supporting the take-up of these American Rescue Plan dollars for violence prevention efforts,” stated the memo sent from senior White House officials Susan Rice, Gene Sperling, and Julie Rodriguez. “And, as cities, counties, and states around the country consider how to allocate the historic support they’ve received through the Rescue Plan, we again encourage them to use funding to improve public safety in their communities.”
The request comes just weeks after the U.S. Department of the Treasury released additional guidance allowing communities to take various actions to reduce and respond to increased violence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although violent crimes have trended downward from the peak in the early 1990s, they have spiked in the past 18 months.
The updated guidance allows cities to hire additional police officers, including hiring above pre-pandemic levels. It also authorizes community violence intervention programs, stronger enforcement efforts to reduce gun violence, and technology and equipment for law enforcement. Treasury also allows mental and social services, such as referrals to trauma recovery services for crime victims and summer camps and recreation for youths.
President Biden met with the attorney general and local leaders Monday afternoon to continue discussions about gun violence reduction. Those city officials have already started using ARPA funding to invest in community policing, implement violence intervention programs, and expand programming to redirect individuals from crime.
The memo outlines actions that several cities have taken with the ARPA funding to bolster public safety. Cincinnati has increased its policing and emergency services budget, while Watertown, N.Y. –the smallest city included in the White House memo with a population just over 25,000 – is reinstating four police officers and two other city staff positions.
President Biden has requested additional support to better strengthen both federal and local law enforcement efforts. His proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget included $300 million more for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program over $750 million more for federal law enforcement agencies. The House appropriations bill that addresses justice programs includes level funding for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) and COPS Hiring grants for local governments, although the bill has not yet received committee consideration.