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California cities ‘spent Covid relief money on police’

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.

But most large California cities spent millions of Arpa dollars on law enforcement. Some also gave police money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) Act, adopted in 2020 under Donald Trump.

In a state with severe income inequality and a dramatically worsening homelessness crisis, the stimulus spending has sparked backlash from community organizers who argue that the funds should have gone directly to civilians and that police should have accepted cuts.

“It was called the ‘American Rescue Plan’, but you’re telling me that what needed to be rescued was the police department?” said Stephen “Cue” Jn-Marie, a pastor and activist at Skid Row in LA. “The city’s kneejerk reaction is always to use law enforcement to respond to everything … and the police forces keep getting larger.”

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