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Thirty U.S. Cities to Tackle Budget Crises and Advance Equity with Support from Bloomberg Philanthropies

Through What Works Cities, the Program will Assist with Pandemic Recovery and Share Lessons with Other Cities

New York, NY: Bloomberg Philanthropies today announced the 30 U.S. cities that will participate in the What Works Cities City Budgeting for Equity and Recovery program, a new effort that will help cities confront budget crises while strengthening their commitment to equity in the wake of COVID-19. The program will help cities develop and implement plans to drive financial recovery and ensure that their budget crises do not disproportionately harm low-income residents and communities of color. It will also provide the opportunity for leaders from the 30 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.

“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 percent 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. Eighty three percent 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 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.

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 or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok.