Nearly 2/3 of L.A.’s COVID Relief Money Went to Cop and Firefighter Pay

A new report from a top city official found that most of Los Angeles’ federal COVID recovery money went to police and fire salaries

One thing’s crystal clear: Los Angeles did not defund the police. Instead, it funneled nearly two-thirds of the $1.08 billion it got from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to pay the salaries of cops, firefighters, and other municipal employees, per a report by the city’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) reveals.

The report, published in L.A.Taco Thursday, found that in a city which had one of the worst homelessness crises in the country, no ARPA funds went to addressing this issue or to public health initiatives like vaccines.

“At this time, the City has not designated any [ARPA funds] for shelters, temporary housing, or permanent housing,” Assistant City Administrative Officer Ben Ceja told L.A. TACO.

He did stipulate that the city received $100 million from a separate ARPA-HOME grant and that this sum—roughly eight percent of the city’s larger ARPA State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund—went to “programs under the categories of Development and Support of Affordable Housing, provision of Supportive Services; and Program Administration.”

Ceja insisted that the ARPA funds were crucial to cover the shortfall in police salaries and other needs. “We did not have enough of our General Fund revenue to cover all of our expenses for Fiscal Year 2020-21,” he told the website earlier this year. “As such, the federal funds were used to cover the cost of City government services, specifically LAPD payroll.”

Police and fire have the two highest payrolls of any city department, and received more than twice the amount of ARPA funding that went to the city’s other four. While L.A. might have dedicated ARPA funds to housing, small-business infrastructure, or supporting healthcare workers, such a move would not reflect larger trends.

In early 2021, the ARPA stimulus package was explicitly passed to aid cities crippled by COVID, with officials recommending it be used to support public health and housing, healthcare workers’ salaries, small business relief, and infrastructure investment. But as reflected in April’s analysis by The Guardian, California’s largest cities gave the majority of it to police.

The largest funding categories outside that of city employee salaries are parks, licensed small businesses and restaurants, and preschools—which received $75 million, $30 million, and $20 million, respectively. As of June 30, less than $3 million had been spent on park improvements and licensed preschools.

Ceja told L.A. Taco that this was a result of the “various phases of construction including design and vendor selection” each project must undergo. The assistant city administrator said that “expenditures will follow according to the project schedule.”

So far, the city has received 85 percent of the money it was earmarked by ARPA.

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