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D.C. police spent $40 million in overtime for demonstrations that started in May

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D.C. police spent $40 million on overtime during the months of demonstrations outside the White House following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis in May, according to newly released figures from the District.

Officials revealed the expenditure as they announced the city would shift tens of millions of dollars in previously unspent money from three other agencies to cover the deficit.

Federal officials typically provide the District with funds each year to cover local expenses incurred for assisting with national events and demonstrations. Federal authorities appropriated $18 million at the beginning of fiscal 2020, the typical yearly amount.

But the D.C. Office of Budget and Performance Management said the District spent $61 million on events it described as related to federal activities, including demonstrations over policing, the virtual Republican National Convention at the White House and the Fourth of July celebration.

Jennifer Reed, the director of the budget performance office, said a request for the remaining $43 million is pending with federal authorities and Congress. Reed said the District has not gotten a response. D.C. officials said they consider the location of a demonstration and the topic in deciding whether it should be covered by the federal government.

The weeks of sustained demonstrations, some of which turned violent and destructive and were declared riots by police, had a significant impact on the District’s spending plan.

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The District must by law balance its budget, so the shortfall cannot go uncorrected. Reed said if the District gets reimbursed, the money will be put back into the general fund.

According to the District, to cover the police overtime expenses, $28.3 million is being taken from the Department of Health Care Finance, $12.7 million from the Workforce Investment Fund, and $2 million from the Child and Family Services Agency.

The funds went unspent for a variety of reasons. Some funding for the Department of Health Care Finance went unspent because Medicaid enrollment was less than expected, even factoring in the pandemic, according to a memo from the budget office. The Workforce Investments Account had extra money because of a hiring freeze. At the Child and Family Services Agency, fewer children than expected required assistance.

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Nine members of the D.C. Council signed a letter sent Monday to the interim city administrator, Kevin Donahue, demanding an explanation and saying that had they known of this unspent money before fiscal year 2020 ended, they could have found alterative uses.

“The executive has effectively written the MPD a blank check that the Council legally must now sign, or risk deficiency,” the letter from the nine lawmakers says. It says the “magnitude and timing” of the money shift “demands a detailed explanation of the expenditures.”

The council members said in their letter that the unspent money could have been used to modernize a program that helps residents who have no insurance and are not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare, and in the prevention of child abuse and neglect.

They said the money also could have gone to help 35 families on a waiting list for the Grandparent Caregiver Program, which helps keep youths out of the foster-care system.

“Assuming we have to pay, we look forward to discussing ways to ensure critical health and human services programs are funded optimally,” council member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1) said in a tweet.

Julie Zauzmer contributed to this report.

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