N.O. to Participate in Bloomberg ‘Equity & Recovery’ Program

NEW ORLEANS —The City of New Orleans, in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, announced that it has been selected as one of 30 cities that will participate in the What Works Cities City Budgeting for Equity and Recovery program, a new effort designed to 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 solve problems with help from a network of peers and produce a set of tactics for other local leaders to follow.

“During such unprecedented times, we must be guided by equity and data-driven solutions to face these challenges head on,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “We are excited to partner with other cities to face these challenges and make this an enduring learning opportunity. I want to thank Bloomberg Philanthropies for making this happen.”

“The COVID-19 crisis has impacted New Orleans’ economic and fiscal statuses deeply. It is evident that the economic structure of New Orleans, particularly its reliance on the tourism and hospitality industries, differs from most cities in important ways that must be intentionally and thoroughly acknowledged,” said Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño. “The financial implications the City of New Orleans faces due to COVID-19 are far reaching. We are at an extremely consequential point in time and must demonstrate that we are being thoughtful, prudent, and responsible as it relates to the City’s financial position.”

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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. 

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.”

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

  • Understanding, accessing and spending COVID-19 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 German 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.  

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