Even as Americans hunker down at home amid the COVID-19 crisis, cities across the country continue to see daily shootings. This continued gun violence underscores growing concerns that new strains on state and city resources could affect funding for life-saving gun violence interventions. Any funding interruptions for local gun violence prevention groups could deal long-term setbacks to city gun violence prevention efforts.
Local gun violence intervention programs use evidence-informed approaches tailored to their communities to put a stop to violence and save lives. While states and cities are making difficult decisions about how best to apply strained resources, it’s critical that community-based gun violence intervention and prevention programs continue to receive existing funding during and after the pandemic. Additionally, these programs would benefit from relaxed funding restrictions to allow them to adapt to changing community needs, as well as procure personal protective equipment to keep employees safe as they continue their work in communities.
New York City and Cincinnati have already announced cuts to funding for human and social services, which are critical to implementing a holistic approach to local gun violence intervention and prevention. But daily gun violence continues to persist, as seen in cities like New Orleans, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
As more data emerges, it’s becoming clear that COVID-19 is taking a disproportionate toll on cities, and Black and brown communities are experiencing the disproportionate impact of both the coronavirus and ongoing gun violence. Local intervention programs in Chicago that have adapted their strategies to continue helping communities, particularly communities of color, hit hard by both gun violence and the COVID-19 pandemic.
While some reports have pointed to a drop in crime rates, currently available crime data may not accurately reflect the persistent impact of gun violence on a community. While law enforcement agencies collect and release data related to homicides and shootings, the specific metrics and frequency with which data is released to the public vary from agency to agency. Gun violence data may further be underreported during this time due to law enforcement and hospital capacity to document and report violent incidents and gun violence wounds during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to sustaining funding in state budgets, states should explore additional funding opportunities to bolster and expand violence intervention programs, including federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) victim assistance funds. Millions of dollars in VOCA victim assistance funds are granted to states annually, yet many states are not utilizing these funds to support survivors of gun violence, leaving millions of funding unspent each year. With the number of survivors of gun violence continuously growing, the need for funding to support them is more important than ever.
Even during the pandemic, it’s clear that gun violence will persist, and communities of color will now grapple with the disproportionate impact of two public health crises. While states made tremendous progress in 2019 by supporting these programs and initiatives through dedicated funding in their state budgets, it’s more important than ever that funding is sustained.