Covid Relief Funds Can Help Cities Fight Rising Gun Violence
In cities across the country, gun violence has increased during the pandemic, creating an even greater need for local gun violence intervention work. At the same, local organizations carrying out this work have seen their resources stretched thin amid historic challenges, as their missions expand to meet new community needs and the economic crisis has jeopardized incoming funding.
Fortunately, new federal relief funding is en route to cities that can help local officials bolster these life-saving community gun violence prevention efforts: The American Rescue Plan (ARP), signed into law on March 12, 2021, authorized $130 billion in funding for local governments to counter the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic — including by funding gun violence prevention efforts.
In a new fact sheet, Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund details how local governments can utilize ARP funds to prevent or address gun violence in cities because increased gun violence and the need for expanded violence intervention programs can be traced to the impact of the pandemic and because violence intervention professionals are performing essential frontline work to protect the public and interrupt gun violence.
Already, cities are taking action: Atlanta has announced it will direct $5 million toward expanding the work of Cure Violence, a street outreach program that works to interrupt the spread of violence. The mayor of Akron, Ohio, meanwhile, has said the city plans to devote “significant resources” from ARP funding toward gun violence prevention.
Other cities should act swiftly, too. American Rescue Plan funds will be distributed quickly; the first payment will be allocated within 60 days of the enactment of the American Rescue Plan—May 11, 2021—and the second allocation is planned for distribution one year later.
In addition to American Rescue Plan funds, federal dollars are increasingly available to support cities in addressing gun violence. The Biden Administration announced changes to existing federal funding streams across 26 grant programs to unlock existing funding sources, has requested a new appropriation of $200 million for FY 2022, and has proposed a long-term investment of $5 billion, all for community violence intervention programs.
Gun homicides and assaults occur at shockingly high rates in American cities, and disproportionately impact Black communities — reflecting and amplifying this country’s long-standing systemic and structural racism. Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities within our nation’s cities have been historically and systematically underfunded, leaving many gun violence survivors and their families without adequate resources to heal physically, emotionally, and economically in the aftermath of gun violence.
For decades, community-based organizations have successfully reduced violence and uplifted communities by implementing alternative public safety measures that are locally driven, informed by data, and don’t require police involvement. Often referred to as violence intervention programs, these strategies have expanded greatly over the years and include street outreach, group violence intervention, crime prevention through environmental design, hospital-based violence intervention programs, safe passage programs, and cognitive behavioral therapy.