White House memo urges cities to use coronavirus funds to combat crime

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White House officials sent a memo to state and local officials on Monday urging them to use funds from President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package to reduce crime and combat gun violence at a time when U.S. cities are seeing a spike in violent crime.

The memo outlines how states and cities can take advantage of funds allocated through the rescue plan to support law enforcement, invest in community-based violence interventions, enforce gun laws and assist those who have been incarcerated to reenter their communities. It builds on a strategy that Biden outlined last month.

“The core of the President’s plan is a partnership with cities and states, equipping local leaders with historic levels of federal funding and a range of tools to address the multifaceted challenge of gun violence,” the July 12 memo written by senior White House officials Susan Rice, Gene Sperling and Julie Rodriguez states.

“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,” the memo continues. “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 memo highlights several cities that have already started to use funding from the American Rescue Plan to boost public safety, including Philadelphia; Tucson, Ariz.; Cincinnati and Syracuse, N.Y.

Biden is scheduled to meet with Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), San Jose, Calif., Mayor Sam Liccardo (D) and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who is the Democratic nominee for New York City mayor, on Monday. The meeting will also include police chiefs from Memphis, Tenn.; Chicago; Newark, N.J.; and Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Del.

There was a 30 percent increase in homicides last year over the previous year and an 8 percent rise in gun assaults in major U.S. cities. Violent crime continued to rise in the first months of 2021.

Republicans have hammered Democrats over the rise in crime and attempted to tie Biden to the “defund the police” movement supported by some progressives, though the president has been consistently explicit that he does not support cutting funding for law enforcement.

Monday’s memo notes that Biden requested $300 million in additional funding for the COPS program and $750 million more for federal law enforcement agencies in his fiscal 2022 budget proposal released earlier this year.

Adams’s victory in the Democratic mayoral primary in New York City reignited the debate over how the party should handle crime and policing. Adams, a former police captain, is a centrist candidate who expressed support for law enforcement and vocally opposed defunding the police during his campaign.

Cities represented in Monday’s meeting are also putting funding from the coronavirus relief bill toward public safety and expanded community services.

New York City’s fiscal 2022 budget, for instance, uses $44 million in coronavirus relief funds to expand the city’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, the White House memo notes. The city is also more than doubling the workforce of its summer violence prevention program.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Crime Joe Biden Muriel Bowser Susan Rice
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