Grant backs UIC study of cities’ use of rescue funds for anti-violence initiatives

The Government Finance Research Center at the University of Illinois Chicago has been awarded a two-year, $217,863 grant from The Joyce Foundation to study local governments’ use of American Rescue Plan funds and other public dollars for community violence intervention strategies.

Amanda Kass, associate director of the Government Finance Research Center at UIC
Amanda Kass, associate director of the Government Finance Research Center at UIC

The project aims to evaluate the barriers to and facilitators of cities’ use of federal dollars to advance the goals of racial equity, violence prevention and criminal justice reform, and particularly whether cities use the funds to simply maintain existing services or launch constructive new programs, according to Amanda Kass, associate director of the center and co-principal investigator on the project.

“With the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, cities, counties, towns and villages are in receipt of more multipurpose federal aid than in any time in recent memory,” Kass said. “Among the categories of eligible spending, the aid can be used to enact policy changes and spent on novel community violence intervention programs. While cities have discretion over how to use the funds, they face several challenges using the funds to implement new initiatives and substantive policy changes.”

In collaboration with co-principal investigator Philip Rocco, associate professor of political science at Marquette University, Kass will investigate how much money 28 cities ultimately devote to such initiatives, as well as examine how and whether these cities use additional federal grant funds for community violence interventions.

The researchers plan to provide insight on how the cities’ frameworks for using the funds to advance racial equity work in practice, as well as the potential reforms to grant design and to help local institutions strengthen local governments’ efforts to use federal financial support to advance racial equity in the future.

Additionally, the study will include interviews with key officials and stakeholders from communities directly impacted by violence to understand residents’ needs and the expectations concerning the use of federal aid for these matters.

Kass and Rocco plan to produce policy recommendations and lessons on how future federal aid can be deployed at the local level to address issues of gun violence prevention, justice reform and racial equity.

The researchers also plan to collaborate with The Marshall Project through sharing quantitative data and related reports and will meet regularly with the nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization to discuss their ongoing research efforts.

A future project-related website will feature blog posts, research findings and case studies from the project that could help inform policymakers, the public and media.

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