Chicago residents and local lawmakers have raised concerns after reports show Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot spent nearly 25% of the city's COVID-19 relief funds on police payroll. Numerically speaking, the city reportedly received $1.2 billion in COVID-19 relief aid from the federal government and $281.5 million went to the police department. This news came to light after Lightfoot asked the city council to transfer $65 million of unused COVID-19 relief aid to the 2021 budget.
Reports of $281.5 million being funneled to the police department run contrary to statements made in June. Last summer, Chicago Budget Director Susie Park reportedly told local officials that no relief aid had been spent on the police department. Now, the Chicago Office of Management and Budget is telling local media outlets that "specific coronavirus-related police costs between March and May were later identified for federal reimbursement once coronavirus relief money started arriving."
While relief aid was being distributed, Alderman Daniel La Spata publicly called on city legislators to push COVID-19 relief aid toward marginalized communities. La Spata highlighted housing relief and other benefits as potential targets for coronavirus aid.
“We asked for assurances they wouldn’t spend it all on police,” La Spata said.
“That’s the last thing people wanted, to infuse hundreds of millions more dollars into the Police Department right now.”
Distributing nearly one-quarter of the city's COVID-19 relief has angered many Chicago residents for a variety of reasons. Most notably, the police budget has steadily increased, but crime has not decreased. Last year, Chicago had more sworn police officers than New York, Houston and Los Angeles. Moreover, the city had allocated nearly $2 billion for the department's budget. However, gun violence in Chicago has skyrocketed over the last year. Compared to 2019, the number of shootings increased by 1,115 and murders increased by 50%.
"I'm so so pissed," Charlene Carruthers of the Black Youth Project 100 tweeted.
"Lori Lightfoot sent most of the money Chicago received from the federal government for COVID-19 relief funding to the Chicago Police Department."
Mayor Lightfoot has not issued a statement since the report became public.
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