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Baltimore earmarks $50 million in federal relief funding for violence prevention

Baltimore will dedicate $50 million in federal coronavirus recovery money to violence prevention work in the city, Mayor Brandon Scott announced Tuesday.

The money, which will be spent over the next four years, will help to fund many of the initiatives outlined in the mayor’s crime plan including reentry programs and supports for victims of violence.

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Scott’s crime plan, announced in July, also called for a threefold increase in the city’s violence intervention efforts from programs such as Safe Streets, another initiative Scott said Tuesday he will fund with American Rescue Plan money.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announces investment plans for the $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) funds that will go towards violence reduction and prevention efforts on Tuesday at Shirley Avenue Park.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announces investment plans for the $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) funds that will go towards violence reduction and prevention efforts on Tuesday at Shirley Avenue Park. (Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun)

Scott announced the allocation Tuesday in Park Heights, his childhood neighborhood in Northwest Baltimore. The mayor of nearly a year said he witnessed his first shooting in the neighborhood before the age of 10 and he noted a teacher was shot in 1994 on a corner within sight of his news conference.

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“This is very personal for me,” he said.

The $50 million pot will be directed to the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement and distributed among several key initiatives: $22 million for gun violence prevention, $14 million for reentry supports for formerly incarcerated people returning to Baltimore, $5 million for community healing services and trauma-informed care and $500,000 for juvenile justice programs. An additional $6 million will be used for administrative purposes including creating 20 new positions.

Scott reiterated his pledge to expand the city’s violence intervention initiatives from 10 contracts to 30, now with the help of ARP funding. The mayor said he envisions more robust programs that also can connect the city residents they interact with to additional city or community services such as emergency housing, mental health services and transitional employment.

“It’s not just about stopping that one incident,” he said. “It’s about getting folks the help they need.”

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Shantay Jackson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement, highlighted the work of the Rebuild, Overcome, and Rise (ROAR) Center run by the University of Maryland, Baltimore, which also will receive some of the funding. The center offers assistance to the survivors of violence, including legal help, therapy and medical care.

“This $50 million gives access to resources Baltimore has never had before,” Jackson said.

That is particularly the case with the planned reentry program, work the city has not been doing to this point, Jackson said. A contract is being negotiated with the state Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services to offer preemployment services for 3,000 inmates before they are released in Baltimore, she said. The program will place people in jobs that pay at least $15 an hour.

Scott’s announcement of the $50 million in funding makes violence prevention the second major program to receive a portion of Baltimore’s more than $640 million ARP allocation. The first was an $80 million allocation announced last week for the city’s health department to be used in the fight against the coronavirus for testing, telehealth and contact tracing.

Shantay Jackson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE) talks about violence reduction and prevention spending at a press conference with Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott.
Shantay Jackson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE) talks about violence reduction and prevention spending at a press conference with Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

As with the first allocation, benchmarks have been set to track the outcome of the spending. The city will track crime statistics, the number of conflicts mitigated by violence intervention efforts and the number of ex-offenders who return to employment, said Shamiah Kerney, head of the Office of Recovery Programs.

Officials said an average of 2,000 conflicts are mitigated in the city each year now, but there has not yet been a goal set for mitigation with the expanded contracts.

Baltimore is set to receive a total of $641 million from the American Rescue Plan, a federal package approved by Congress in March and designed to assist communities with recovery from the coronavirus pandemic as well as kick-start other projects of community benefit such as infrastructure and broadband.

Scott created the city’s Office of Recovery Programs with a 10-member staff to evaluate applications for the money from city agencies and Baltimore nonprofits. Proposals must be for at least $250,000. Staff members judge proposals against a rubric that includes the public good they will generate, risk factors, performance measures and the project’s impact on equity. Equity is weighted most heavily.

Baltimore is also one of more than a dozen cities and counties from across the country that have signed on to participate in a collaborative effort led by President Joe Biden to reduce gun violence that will use ARP funds.

Budget officials said earlier this month that $141 million of ARP money has been set aside to help balance the city’s upcoming budgets, which are expected to incur millions of dollars in coronavirus-related expenses.

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