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Denver Selected to Participate in New Program to Tackle Budget Crises and Advance Equity with Support from Bloomberg Philanthropies

Through What Works Cities, Program will Assist with Pandemic Recovery in 30 Cities

Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced its selection of the City and County of Denver to participate in the What Works Cities City Budgeting for Equity and Recovery program, a new effort to help cities confront the budget crisis while strengthening their commitment to equity in the wake of COVID-19. The program will help 30 cities develop and implement plans to drive financial recovery and ensure the budget crisis does not disproportionately harm under-resourced residents and communities of color. The program also provides the opportunity for leaders from the 30 selected cities to problem solve with a network of peers and produce a set of tactics for other local leaders to follow.

Launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2015, What Works Cities is one of the largest-ever philanthropic efforts to enhance cities’ use of data and evidence to solve big problems. What Works Cities gives local leaders the tools to replicate successful programs and engage the public, fund and improve services, and evaluate progress. Through the City Budgeting for Equity and Recovery program, What Works Cities will support mayors, chief financial officers, and budget directors to use data-driven best practices as they continue to manage their pandemic responses. 

“Denver’s strong fiscal management structure allows us to be the only city or county to hold a AAA bond rating from all three ratings agencies, and we are ensuring equity is built into our budget process. But we know there is more we can do to protect our economy and our most vulnerable residents,” Mayor Michel B. Hancock said. “The 2020 and 2021 budgets are some of the most challenging in our city’s history as we face both the impact of a global pandemic and an economic crisis, including the disproportionate impact of they have had on our communities of color and First Nations people. I look forward to collaborating with Bloomberg Philanthropies and What Works Cities to not just withstand these crises, but recover stronger and more equitable than before.”

“Cities across the country are facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis. Revenues are down, demand for services is up, there is uncertainty about what support cities will receive from the federal government, and there are urgent needs around racial equity,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and 108th Mayor of New York City. “Through this new initiative, we will offer municipal leaders tools to help them navigate the crisis, setting a path more cities can follow as they develop their own recovery plans.”

Nearly 90% of U.S. cities expect revenue shortfalls in the wake of COVID-19. As a result, more than half of U.S. cities expect to cut public safety spending, and more than a quarter plan to lay off workers, according to a survey conducted by the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Cities are projected to lose $360 billion in revenue over the next three years while mayors still need to deliver vital services to residents. 83% of the 30 cities participating in the cohort have already experienced budget cuts. The new What Works Cities program will help city leaders navigate these high stakes decisions with the latest data, trusted expertise, and peer input. The program also aims to set the standard for how local governments respond to budget crises and advance equity.

“The current economic crisis manifesting under COVID-19 is unprecedented and presents a host of unique challenges,” said Boston College Professor Lourdes German, Director of The Civic Innovation Project and partner on the program. “Cities have to keep running with no sense of when public health and consumption patterns will return to normal levels — and this is occurring in an environment where federal stimulus aid has been unpredictable.”

The program will cover challenges most pressing to budget leaders including:

  • Understanding, accessing, and spending COVID relief funds;
  • Financing that enables strong budget health;
  • Increasing revenues in a way that doesn’t disproportionately impact low-income families; and
  • Incorporating an equity analysis into major budget decisions, including cuts.

Program participants, which will include mayors and city financial leaders, will receive guidance from finance experts in the public, private, and academic sectors such as Professor Lourdes German from Boston College and Marc Shaw, Chair of the CUNY Institute of State and Local Governance; engage with their peers in interactive workshops; and receive customized support and technical assistance, valued at over $100,000 per city. What Works Cities will share the learnings and resources developed during the program publicly to ensure that cities everywhere are able to apply them to their local budgeting process.

The 30 cities that have been selected to participate in the program, which will run through December 2021, are: Akron (OH), Austin (TX), Birmingham (AL), Chattanooga (TN), Chula Vista (CA), Columbia (SC), Columbus (OH), Denver (CO), Durham (NC), Fort Collins (CO), Knoxville (TN), Lincoln (NE), Madison (WI), New Orleans (LA), Oakland (CA), Peoria (IL), Philadelphia (PA), Providence (RI), Pueblo (CO), Rochester (NY), Salt Lake City (UT), Savannah (GA), Seattle (WA), Springfield (IL), Stockton (CA), Syracuse (NY), Tacoma (WA), Tampa (FL), Toledo (OH), West Palm Beach (FL).

“This program is the latest in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ continued effort to help cities use data, creativity, and collaboration to tackle their biggest challenges,” said Simone Brody, Executive Director of What Works Cities. “With COVID-19 exposing the stark inequities that exist in our communities and the outsized impact that government decisions have on low-income communities and communities of color, city leaders must address these budget crises through an equity lens. Data best practices, innovation tools, and intercity collaboration will play a critical role in how cities build back stronger and more inclusively.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies works with cities around the world to dramatically improve the capacity of local government to improve people’s lives and drive progress on the most urgent problems. To accomplish this, Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in local leadership development; helps cities test urban innovations and build evidence around approaches that work; connects cities to share lessons and impactful strategies; and boosts local governments’ ability to generate big ideas.

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About Bloomberg Philanthropies

Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in more than 570 cities and over 160 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2019, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $3.3 billion. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on FacebookInstagramYouTubeTwitter, and TikTok.

About What Works Cities

What Work Cities, launched by Bloomberg Philanthropies in April 2015, is a national initiative that helps cities use data and evidence more effectively to tackle their most pressing challenges and improve residents’ lives. It is one of the largest-ever philanthropic efforts to enhance cities’ use of data and evidence. Through the initiative’s expert partners, cities around the country are receiving technical assistance, guidance and resources to succeed in making more informed decisions, tackling local challenges, and delivering more effective services and programs for their residents. Cities in the What Works Cities network also gain access to a collaborative network of peers in cities across the country. For more information, visit whatworkscities.org or follow us on Twitter.