Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was joined Aug. 11 by Cook County Commissioners Brandon Johnson, Dennis Deer, Frank Aguilar, Alma Anaya and Bridget Degnen and Avik Das, executive director of the Justice Advisory Council, to announce the recipients of the County’s Gun Violence Prevention and Reduction Grant awards.
More than 75 representatives from the organizations given grants attended event to connect and discuss their work.
“This historic investment in violence prevention programming brings us closer to our goal of providing safe and thriving communities for all residents” said Preckwinkle. “By leveraging federal funding, we are making the unprecedented investment needed to address the tragically high levels of gun violence we have seen in our county. Making services more widely available to residents in need will not just save lives, it will strengthen our communities that have been left vulnerable to gun violence. This investment will help prevent and reduce violence, but it will also help us heal and move beyond this crisis together as a community.”
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funded grant program, is managed by the Cook County Justice Advisory Council (JAC). Since 2015, the JAC has managed over $50 million in county funded grants for violence prevention, services for returning residents and other areas that increase community safety and help prevent involvement in the criminal justice system. This new grant initiative was designed as a direct response to the increased levels of gun violence experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant program prioritizes community areas and municipalities in Cook County that have endured the highest rates of gun violence.
In total, nearly $75 million in grants were approved by the Cook County Board of Commissioners for this round of funding. Under the grant initiative, 34 awards were made to individual organizations and coalitions providing an array of evidence-based violence prevention services including street outreach, case management, counseling and mental health services, employment support and youth programming. Work will be carried out by 68 separate organizations funded through this initiative.
“The response to this grant opportunity was overwhelming and inspiring,” said Avik Das, Executive Director of the Justice Advisory Council. “190 grant applications were submitted, representing nearly 400 organizations with a total request of almost $500 million. The amount of high-quality, innovative programs proposed under this initiative is a testament to the dedication and expertise of the organizations working on the ground to advance gun violence prevention and reduction work in our communities. We are beyond proud to be investing in these organizations; the lasting impact they will have in the lives of so many residents will be transformative for Cook County.”
In preparation for the influx of federal funds, Cook County established an intergovernmental working group on violence prevention in 2021. This group continues to meet regularly with County leadership and is engaged in conversation with partners at the State of Illinois and City of Chicago. This effort aims to promote coordination in the implementation and evaluation of local violence prevention initiatives across government entities.
“Violence prevention is a top priority for Cook County and our partners at the City and State,” said Lanetta Haynes-Turner, Preckwinkle’s chief of staff. “We believe a collaborative approach is essential to help maximize the impact of these vital funds. Continuing to strive for best practices as we implement proven, community-based violence intervention strategies will ensure that all residents have the ability to feel safe in their communities, particularly those most impacted by gun violence.”
The three-year grant period of these awards will begin in September 2022 at which time the awarded organizations will receive their first allotment of funds pursuant to their respective award agreements and budgets. Many of the service providers are building upon and expanding existing programming under this initiative, establishing wider collaborations, and preparations are already underway.
“Gun violence in our communities is not just something that happens without precursor” said Quiwana Bell, chief development officer at Westside Health Authority. “Many of our vulnerable youth are isolated, disconnected, and have no hope for a positive future. Westside Health Authority recognizes that intervention and prevention of gun violence starts with connecting with these vulnerable groups in a genuine way and showing them their worth to the community while working with them to accomplish their personal and professional goals. This funding will enable us to extend these services to more young people in need of support.”