Focus on New Laws: Public Safety Aid

August 7, 2023

One-time aid for cities for a public safety purpose will be sent out on Dec. 26, 2023.

The 2023 omnibus tax bill included $210 million in one-time public safety aid that will be distributed on Dec. 26, 2023, to cities across the state. Unlike local government aid, this aid cannot be used for general purposes, but instead must be used to “provide public safety.”

Eligible and ineligible uses of the aid

The authorizing language in the law provides categories of eligible spending, but the list is not exhaustive. It is also important to note that while legislators expected most of these funds to be used for police and fire expenses, it was intentionally written in a broad way that would allow for other uses as well. The allowable uses named in the new law include:

  • Community violence prevention.
  • Community intervention programs.
  • Community engagement.
  • Mental health crisis responses.
  • Victim services.
  • Training programs.
  • First responder wellness.
  • Equipment related to fire, rescue, and emergency services.
  • Other personnel or equipment costs.

The law also specifically calls out certain uses that are not eligible. Ineligible uses include:

  • Employer contribution to the Public Employees Retirement Association Police and Fire Plan if the local unit received police state aid in 2022.
  • Any costs associated with alleged wrongdoing or misconduct.
  • Purchase of an armored or tactical vehicle or substantially similar vehicle.
  • Purchase of tear gas, chemical munitions, or substantially similar items.
  • Costs of construction, reconstruction, remodeling, expansion, or improvement of
    a police station, including related facilities. “Related facilities” includes access roads, lighting, sidewalks, and utility components on or adjacent to the property on which the police station is located that are necessary for access to and use of the building.

Considerations for cities

Even with these categories of eligible and ineligible uses, there are many areas of spending that cities may have eligibility questions about. Unlike federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act or Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, its unlikely additional guidance will be provided to further clarify how these funds can and cannot be used.

Cities will have to consult with their attorneys and use their best judgment to determine whether a use that is not clearly defined as eligible or ineligible is allowable. However, any use must be to provide public safety. And like with any state funds, their use must be closely tracked and documented in order to respond to any future inquiries or evaluations of this program.

Frequently asked questions about the public safety aid

  • What are the reporting requirements for these funds?

    There are no specific reporting requirements in the law. However, as with all public expenditures, cities must carefully document how the public safety aid funds are spent and be ready to provide that information if asked.