Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot spent millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief money on the personnel costs for the police department, the city's budget office revealed Wednesday.
The Chicago Tribune reports of the $1.2 billion Chicago received from the federal government to help plug budget holes caused the drop of revenue due to the pandemic, $281.5 million went to the Chicago Police Department. Money also went to Chicago’s public health response to the pandemic, to homeless services, senior citizen assistance and O’Hare and Midway international airports.
Speaking to aldermen in June, city Budget Director Susie Park said no relief money had been spent on police. But the Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday said specific coronavirus-related police costs from March through May were later identified for federal reimbursement once coronavirus relief money started arriving.
Those costs included police wellness checks on residents, airport security when travelers were screened for COVID-19, security at the McCormick Place coronavirus field hospital and security at virus testing sites.
The Lightfoot administration sought City Council approval to transfer about $65 million in unspent federal COVID-19 money into the 2021 budget. That became possible after the Biden administration waived Federal Emergency Management Agency local funding matches and extended the deadline to spend federal dollars until the end of the year.
Alderman Daniel La Spata had called on the mayor to put federal money toward housing relief or other programs to help struggling residents. He said he and other aldermen heard from constituents opposed to federal money going to the police payroll.
“We asked for assurances they wouldn’t spend it all on police,” La Spata said Wednesday. “That’s the last thing people wanted, to infuse hundreds of millions more dollars into the police department right now.”