Treasury Rejects Proposal from 17 States to Use ARPA Funds for Prison Construction
At least 17 states across the US have proposed allocating more than $830 million of their federal COVID relief funds to projects supporting the increase and expansion of jails and prisons, ranging from $8,000 initiatives to some costing in the hundreds of millions.
Advocates argue that building new facilities would have more total space per person and therefore be a COVID mitigation measure. The Treasury disagreed, stating that "such construction is expected to be more costly than alternative approaches that may be equally or more effective in decreasing the spread of the disease". The Treasury has likewise deemed construction projects undertaken as a response to increased crime rates to be ineligible for the same reason.
Further debate within state legislatures has arisen over whether or not COVID-19 relief funding from pools allocated for lost revenue is impacted by the Treasury's Final Ruling. Kirk Fulford, deputy director of Alabama's Legislative Services’ Agency fiscal division, noted that the rules say funding may be used to pay for government services in an amount equal to the revenue loss experienced by the recipient due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. He stress that the Alabama government lost an estimated $536.7 million in revenue during the pandemic, and that the proposed $400 million for prisons was appropriated from that money, which was placed in a separate fund.