Kemp commits $100 million more in federal COVID-19 money to law enforcement

Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday that he is committing another $100 million in federal COVID-19 relief money for grants to law enforcement agencies to address violent crime and offset staffing shortages.

Kemp, who is up for reelection in November, last year dedicated up to $100 million in federal relief money to give $1,000 bonuses to law enforcement officers, jail and prison guards, firefighters and other first responders across the state.

“Public safety has always been my top priority, because every Georgian should feel safe in their own communities,” Kemp said in a statement announcing the grants.

Republican lawmakers have focused their attention and publicity on rising crime in Atlanta over the past few years. However, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last year that violent crime has increased throughout the state.

“We must continue to invest in our brave men and women in uniform,” Kemp said. “With these funds, I am sending reinforcements to those on the front lines to help with recruitment and retention, crime reduction, violence intervention, and equipment and technology.”

The state has received $4.8 billion in funding from a federal COVID-19 relief law Democrats in Congress passed last year over complaints from Kemp and other Republicans. By law, Kemp has complete discretion over how it is spent.

In this case, the state will award up to $1.5 million in grants to law enforcement agencies to “address increased violent and community crimes as a result of the pandemic and to help offset a decrease in law enforcement staffing that occurred as local governments fought the effects and spread of COVID-19.”

Funds can be used to augment staffing, support violent crime reduction or community violence intervention programming, and invest in technology and equipment.

State and local law enforcement agencies are eligible for the grants. The applications can be submitted starting Sept. 1.

Earlier this week, Kemp announced $37.4 million worth of federal COVID-19 dollars would go to school programs to help students who might have fallen behind during the pandemic. He also announced $125 million would go to school-based health centers.

The governor also recently announced plans to spend more than $1.2 billion of federal COVID-19 relief by handing out one-time payments of $350 to up to 3 million Georgians enrolled in publicly funded Medicaid, food stamp and welfare programs.

Only a few days before that, he said an additional $240 million in COVID-19 relief money would go to expand high-speed internet services in rural Georgia — on top of $400 million in federal money already committed to the effort.

Democrats have accused Kemp of using the federal COVID-19 funding that he opposed to help his reelection effort.

The Democratic Party of Georgia posted a tweet Thursday saying, “Once again, Gov. Brian Kemp is turning to funds provided by the American Rescue Plan, which he called ‘a slap in the face for hardworking Georgians’ and urged Georgia’s U.S. Senators to oppose.”

The governor faces a rematch with Democrat Stacey Abrams in November. He bested Abrams in a hotly contested race in 2018.

Abrams spokesman Alex Floyd said, “Once again, Brian Kemp is trying to take credit for money he repeatedly tried to stop from reaching Georgians. While violent crime has skyrocketed on Kemp’s watch, Georgia Democrats delivered critical federal dollars that Kemp now wants to claim credit for.”