Budgets are moral documents. As we enter the third year of a pandemic that exacerbated and laid bare the harm caused by decades of deliberate underinvestment, one of our federal government’s highest priorities must be fully and equitably funding our communities.
We applaud the steps the President has taken in this direction – with billions to support affordable housing, commitments towards climate justice, legal support for immigrant communities, and the introduction of a billionaire’s tax that will ensure the wealthiest in our country start paying their fair share.
The President also proposed $32 billion in new spending to expand law enforcement, in response to rising concerns about gun violence.
Our community’s concerns about gun violence are real. And so is the reality of police violence, mass criminalization, and mass incarceration. For decades, communities have been modeling and investing in ways that address root causes of harm and violence without law enforcement. It is time for government at all levels – local, state, and federal – to invest in and help grow these community-led strategies to scale.
This proposed new spending to expand law enforcement shows a continued and misguided over-reliance on policing as the only or primary violence prevention strategy. This is directly at odds with what builds true safety.
We create real safety by making sure people have what they need to thrive – stable housing, dignified living wage jobs, quality education and after-school programs, food security, healthcare, and vibrant public spaces to build community. That is why the American Rescue Plan and Build Back Better can and will truly be historic investments that address structural violence and the harm created by housing instability, economic loss, and the mental and emotional burden that communities continue to endure.
A proposed $500 million for community violence interventions and $300 million for mental and behavioral health grants are welcome and powerful investments into proven strategies to reduce violence but they pale in comparison to the proposed increases for police personnel. Imagine what could be accomplished – how many lives could be saved – with $30 billion for violence prevention efforts and community investments instead.