A group of City Council members and officials from Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration will guide neighborhood organizations eyeing grants from a recently approved program aimed at reducing gun violence.
Last month’s budget deal dedicated $20 million for anti-violence community groups, and an application period for that funding is expected to open over the next couple of weeks.
The initiative, designed to boost ‘grassroots’ groups, is one of several approaches Philadelphia officials are taking to prevent homicides and shootings, which have risen to unprecedented levels.
Since January, 316 people have been killed in the city, more than the year-end totals for every year from 2013 to 2017. At this point last year, there were 73 fewer homicides. Nearly 1,300 people have been shot in 2021, up by about 25%, according to police data.
“We know residents are afraid, afraid to attend cookouts or go to basketball courts, afraid to let their kids play outside,” Kenney said Wednesday during a news conference outside City Hall. “We hear you, and we’re committed to finding solutions.”
Kenney has resisted calls from Council members, activists and some in the press to declare gun violence a ‘state of emergency’ in Philadelphia.
“It doesn’t unlock funding. It doesn’t change the inter-agency coordination. All these things we’ve been doing,” he told reporters last week. “I don’t think labeling it anything is going to change what we’ve been doing to make it go away.”
Mid-sized community organizations will be targeted for the grants, which will range from $100,000 to $1 million, Kenney said. A request-for-proposals soliciting applications will likely be issued early next month, according to City Council.
Once the money is awarded, grantees will be able to turn to the Violence Prevention and Opportunity Monitoring Group, unveiled Wednesday, for support. Officials stressed that there will be some accountability for the funds.
Council members Kenyatta Johnson, Curtis Jones Jr., Cherelle Parker, Jamie Gauthier and Cindy Bass have been named to the group, which will also include mayoral appointees from a variety of city departments.
“There are many things we need to do to address this unacceptable level of gun violence,” Council President Darrell Clarke said in a statement. “That includes focused law enforcement, better coordination among all our law enforcement partners – local, state and federal, and other violence prevention programming.”
“But nothing can replace a more engaged and supported community-focused approach,” he continued. “That is why it’s critically important that Council appropriated this funding with agreement from the Kenney administration.”
The sides approved a budget in late June for the current fiscal year, which began this month, that allocated $155 million to anti-violence programming, following advocacy efforts from Council members and progressive groups.
Officials at the time said the spending incorporates, among other initiatives, $17.1 million for workforce development and jobs, $1.5 million for two curfew centers and $28 million for after-school and summer programs for kids.