Jun 6, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Busted budgets make it harder for cities to address inequality

Illustrated collage of a city hall building and falling money.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pandemic's economic collapse is making it harder for local leaders to address the inequalities in their cities — even as the unrest over police violence has magnified the need for change even further.

The big picture: Evening out some of these disparities requires money — and city budgets are shot.

What's happening: Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, the city's former police chief, said this week has been a "turning point in awareness" in her city.

  • "Some individuals in some neighborhoods have never been in the low-income areas, and are unaware of the problems and issues," she said. "This has broadened awareness of systemic issues and will foster community engagement."
  • Tampa will still be able to fund existing plans for affordable housing, public transportation and a new effort on workforce development. But an anticipated $20 million budget shortfall will hamper new investments.

Cincinnati is dipping into reserves, furloughing employees and facing cuts to city services to deal with an $80 million budget deficit, said Mayor John Cranley.

  • "We have the resources we need to to get through it," he said. "But we need to be investing in public health, police and fire, economic empowerment and small business loans to help people get back on their feet. We're not going to be able to do that."

The bottom line: Many cities are struggling to marshal the resources to help residents recover from recent health and economic blows, let alone support new levels of community reinvestment.

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