Pueblo is one of 30 cities that will join the What Works Cities City Budgeting for Equity and Recovery program, Mayor Nick Gradisar and Bloomberg Philanthropies announced Oct. 15.

What Works Cities is a new effort to help cities tackle budget crises while strengthening their commitment to equity in the wake of COVID-19. 

Denver and Fort Collins are also joining What Works Cities.

With cities nationwide facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis, the program will help city leaders build 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 give leaders from the 30 cities an opportunity to problem solve with a network of peers and establish tactics for other local leaders to follow. 

“How Pueblo recovers from COVID-19 will define our next decade and we must rebound with a City that prioritizes inclusivity and equity,” Mayor Gradisar said in an Oct. 15 news release.

“A city budget is a statement of priorities and working in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, my goal is that we develop a data-driven and inclusive financial structure that helps brighten Pueblo’s future."  

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. 

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. Of the 30 cities participating in the cohort, 83 percent have already seen budget cuts. 

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.