For over a year, local officials have been on the front lines responding to the dual public health For the past two years, local officials have been on the front lines responding to the dual public health crises of COVID-19 and gun violence. The pandemic exacerbated the structural circumstances in which both a virus and city gun violence thrive: racially disparate access to resources, chronic underinvestment, and entrenched poverty. As a result, not only has COVID-19 disproportionately impacted Black and brown communities in our cities, 2020 and 2021 experienced rates of gun homicides not seen since the 1990s, making gun violence another part of COVID’s tragic legacy.1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. WONDER Online Database, Underlying Cause of Death.
American Rescue Plan funds can resource city gun violence prevention.
To assist localities, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law on March 12, 2021, authorizing $130 billion in funding for local governments to counter the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.2Public Law No: 117-2, Sec. 9901. Metropolitan cities have populations of 50,000 or more. Nonentitlement unit of government is generally any unit of local government that is not a metropolitan city. ARP allows states and local governments to spend relief funds (a) in response to COVID-19 and its negative economic impacts, including support to nonprofit organizations, and (b) for costs related to premium pay for essential workers3States have the discretion to designate which job titles and sectors constitute “essential workers.” Federal guidelines define essential workers as “those who conduct a range of operations and services in industries that are essential to ensure the continuity of critical functions in the United States (U.S.).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Interim List of Categories of Essential Workers,“ accessed March 29, 2021, https://bit.ly/3cxAzlR. during COVID-19. Local governments can utilize ARP funds to prevent or address gun violence in cities. The Department of Treasury’s final rule states that “evidence-based practices like focused deterrence, street outreach, violence interrupters, and hospital-based violence intervention models” are eligible uses under the law. Funds may also be utilized to build capacity of community violence intervention programs through increased staffing, pay increases, training, and professional development courses.4“Department of the Treasury, 31 CFR Part 35 RIN 1505-AX77, Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, Final Rule,” 87 Fed. Reg. 4338 (January 27, 2022), https://federalregister.gov/d/2022-00292.
Cities should tap American Rescue Plan funds to address the COVID spike in gun violence.
After two years of surging gun violence in cities across the United States, local governments should allot COVID relief dollars to local efforts to reduce gun violence in America’s most impacted communities. Cities across the country, including St. Louis, Baltimore, New York City, Atlanta, and Los Angeles have used the American Rescue Plan funds to address increases in gun violence. The language in the American Rescue Plan is substantially similar to, if not broader than, the language authorizing prior COVID relief funds, permitting cities to once again invest recovery funds in violence intervention programs.
In 2022, cities will receive their second American Rescue Plan payment. Cities should earmark ARP dollars to fund their comprehensive gun violence reduction plans. Nowhere are these funds more urgently needed than for the violence intervention programs that have been engaged in essential work on the front lines of both COVID-19 and violence prevention. These programs require additional funds to bolster and expand their evidence-driven violence intervention strategies, reduce gun violence, and lift up communities. Cities like Akron and Atlanta have already committed to investing their American Rescue Plan funds in gun violence prevention programming, and other cities should follow suit.
American Rescue Plan funds will be distributed quickly.
American Rescue Plan funds must be allocated by 2024 and spent by 2026. The funds are distributed in two parts: cities received their first half of their funding in 2021 and will receive their second payment in 2022. The Secretary of the Treasury will be responsible for executing allocation of funds and issuing guidance and regulations related to that allocation. The Treasure Department has released their final rule regarding use of American Rescue Plan funds. This rule goes into effect April 1, 2022.
As local governments develop their spending plan for American Rescue Plan funds, they should prioritize and plan funding for gun violence intervention programs. For more information on how to use American Rescue Plan funds to address gun violence in your locality, please contact us at [email protected].
Everytown Research & Policy is a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to understanding and reducing gun violence. Everytown Research & Policy works to do so by conducting methodologically rigorous research, supporting evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge to the American public.