SPONSORED:

Iowa using federal COVID-19 funding to pay police officers: report

Iowa using federal COVID-19 funding to pay police officers: report
© Getty Images

The Iowa state government led by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is using $10 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to pay the salaries of state police officers, according to an analysis by The Associated Press

The money is listed in a state report as going toward “State Government COVID staffing” at the Iowa Department of Public Safety to support employees “whose services were diverted to a substantially different use as a result of COVID-19.”

Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Debra McClung told the AP that the money is predominantly supporting salary costs for approximately 550 officers, including road troopers and criminal investigators. 

ADVERTISEMENT

However, the AP noted that these officers have largely carried on their routine duties during the pandemic, including enforcing traffic laws and assisting local crime investigations.

While McClung did not indicate which parts of officers’ responsibilities had changed as a result of the pandemic, she cited a revised October guidance from the Treasury Department explaining that payroll can be included under pandemic-related costs. 

The document, however, states that these expenses qualify for personnel and services that “due entirely to the COVID-19 public health emergency, have been diverted to substantially different functions.” 

Reynolds’s office did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment. 

She has been criticized for the state’s handling of the $1.25 billion it has received in coronavirus relief to pay for non-pandemic-related expenses while Iowa has its own budget surplus of more than $700 million,  the AP noted. 

On Monday, Reynolds announced that she would no longer be using $21 million from the relief fund to pay for an executive branch software system following a review by state Auditor Rob Sand. 

ADVERTISEMENT

However, the state is continuing with a plan to use $16.9 million of the funds to standardize data management strategies across state agencies. 

The AP reported that the governor’s office is standing by its use of the relief funds, saying on Monday that hundreds of millions of dollars have been used to support businesses, farmers, communities and health care providers, and nearly half of the money, $490 million, has gone to the state’s unemployment insurance fund. 

Reynolds also faced scrutiny last month for saying there is "science on both sides" of the debate on whether masks are effective in preventing spread of the coronavirus, a statement that contradicts federal health officials' guidance on the subject. 

Those remarks came just one day after she issued a statewide mask mandate after long resisting such a measure. 

The mandate said that those 2 years and older must wear a mask in indoor areas open to the public where they will be within six feet of people who are not members of their household for 15 minutes or longer. The mask requirements did not extend to the state’s schools, sparking criticism from Iowa’s teacher unions.