President Biden’s $5 billion commitment to evidence-based violence intervention programs is a move in the right direction, but we must do more.
In early April, President Joe Biden unveiled an ambitious infrastructure plan on the heels of his narrowly passed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. This new infrastructure initiative, known as the American Jobs Plan, includes funding for both traditional and “social” infrastructure. It would provide funds for new transportation projects, child and elder care, climate change, and a $5 billion commitment to evidence-based violence intervention programs, among other investments. It is a bold move for the Biden administration, one that attempts to move our efforts for addressing violence in the right direction. But if we truly want to make our cities safer, we can and must do more.
According to a White House fact sheet of the investment, the American Jobs Plan in its current form would direct Congress to invest $5 billion over eight years to support evidence-based community violence intervention programs. It would also create and fund programs that train “at-risk individuals" for jobs and provide other wraparound services to prevent violence and assist survivors. The plan leverages existing federal grants to support eligible programs, and some evidence-based interventions based in hospitals would have access to funding via reimbursements through Medicaid.
Although the American Jobs Plan provides some much-needed support to evidence-based violence intervention programs in our communities, it also provides funding via the Department of Justice to policing programs that undermine its impact. The White House fact sheet mentions that the DOJ will prioritize applicants proposing violence intervention strategies in its FY21 Smart Policing program, which provides $8 million in funding, training, and technical assistance for law enforcement to use data and technology to respond to crime. It will also make community-based violence-intervention a priority focus area in its FY21 Cops Hiring Program, a $156 million competitive grant program that funds entry-level law enforcement officers. Both of these initiatives would provide funding to police departments that will drive some of the violence that this plan seeks to address.
The American Jobs Plan has the opportunity to provide much-needed investments in our public safety infrastructure and would support communities to address violence without police. However, the plan also contradicts its investment in community safety programs by also funding police departments to increase their numbers and expand their ability to incarcerate marginalized communities. While the $5 billion allotted to support community-based programs is a step in the right direction, simultaneously proposing more funding for the police takes us one step forward but two steps back.