Press Release

Giffords and Coalition of Mayors Urge Emergency COVID-19 Funding to Meet Surges in Shootings, Strained Health Care Resources 

In a letter addressed to House and Senate Leadership, 20 mayors call on Congress to provide emergency funding for violence interrupters and outreach workers

During social distancing, gun deaths remain high in cities—disproportionately affecting black and brown communities

Washington, DCGiffords, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, joined with 20 American mayors to send a letter to leadership in the Senate and House of Representatives calling for federal aid to cities battling community gun violence during the coronavirus pandemic. With state and local resources strained, many lifesaving community-based interventions struggle to stay afloat while their services remain in high demand.

The mayors wrote: “Our emergency resources are dedicated to protecting public health and safety, but we do not have enough health care resources to fight both these battles. We need our health care resources to combat COVID-19, and we need specific resources to tackle gun violence and support the frontline workers and organizations who are already working to do so.”

While social distancing policies and stay-at-home orders are in place in states across the country, the letter notes that gun violence has remained persistently high in cities, disproportionately impacting black and brown communities who are also among the most vulnerable to COVID-19. For example, Chicago had its most violent day of 2020 during this pandemic, with 21 people shot, seven killed, and in Cincinnati, homicides are up 91% compared to this time last year. During the coronavirus pandemic, violence interrupters and outreach workers have emerged as a frontline public health resource, but as the pandemic depletes budgetary resources, many cities may be unable to sustain these lifesaving community-based interventions.

Similarly, while the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has provided temporary lifelines to some small businesses and nonprofits across the country, it has fallen short for many nonprofits, including community-based violence prevention organizations that have been shut out due to their affiliation with larger nonprofit “fiscal sponsors.” To ensure the longevity of these programs, the coalition requested:

  • Direct federal aid to cities and vulnerable communities threatened by looming budget cuts;

  • Emergency funding to protect and sustain community-based violence intervention programs in cities most impacted by community violence; and

  • Reliable funding and broader eligibility requirements for the Paycheck Protection Program to support more violence intervention organizations.

“America’s cities are feeling the pain from a pandemic that is pushing hospitals to the limit and a crisis of gun violence that never stopped,” said Peter Ambler, Giffords Executive Director. “In the midst of a difficult situation, violence interrupters and street outreach workers are providing hope and lifelines to communities who need it. They are the first line of defense, lending a helping hand to those troubled by gun violence while taking on new responsibilities in the effort to stop COVID-19 from spreading. In this emergency, we can’t afford to have the lights go out on the violence intervention programs they work for. I’m grateful to these mayors for speaking up and calling on their federal partners to help keep these lifesaving programs secure as they fight two epidemics.”

A recent memo from Giffords Law Center highlights the dual crises facing cities across the country: the ongoing epidemic of gun violence entwined with the coronavirus pandemic, as both health crises tragically amplify the other’s harms.

Community gun violence disproportionately impacts communities of color. For example, black men constitute just 6% of the US population and account for more than 50% of all gun homicides each year. For too long, states have failed to invest in effective programs to address this violence and murder inequality. But recently, more states and localities are turning to intervention strategies to address the imbalance. Research and case studies have shown that through a combination of low-cost, community-oriented intervention programs and much-needed firearms policy reforms, gun violence rates in underserved communities can be dramatically reduced in as little as two years.

A report by Giffords Law Center, A Case Study in Hope: Lessons From Oakland’s Remarkable Reduction in Gun Violence, details Oakland’s successful citywide gun violence reduction strategy and why these programs are more important than ever. Since 2012, Oakland has cut its annual shootings and homicides nearly in half. In 2018, Oakland recorded its lowest number of homicides in almost two decades. This stands in direct contrast to many other major American cities that saw an increase in gun violence after 2012.

Mayors signed on to the letter include:

  • Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles, California

  • Libby Schaaf, Mayor of Oakland, California

  • Tom Butt, Mayor of Richmond, California
  • Michael Tubbs, Mayor of Stockton, California

  • Justin Elicker, Mayor of New Haven, Connecticut

  • Michael Hancock, Mayor of Denver, Colorado

  • Robert Eastern, Mayor of East St. Louis, Illinois
  • Bernard Young, Mayor of Baltimore, Maryland

  • Jacob Frey, Mayor of Minneapolis, Minnesota

  • Steven M. Fulop, Mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey

  • Ras Baraka, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey

  • Andre Sayegh, Mayor of Paterson, New Jersey

  • W. Reed Guscoria, Mayor of Trenton, New Jersey

  • Tim Keller, Mayor of Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Mary Ann Baldwin, Mayor of Raleigh, North Carolina

  • Jim Kinney, Mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • Bill Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Levar Stoney, Mayor of Richmond, Virginia

  • Jenny Durkan, Mayor of Seattle, Washington

  • Tom Barrett, Mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin