Allentown residents want COVID funding to help end gun violence

Written by on May 26, 2022

Allentown residents want COVID funding to help end gun violence

By Tyler Pratt
May 26, 2022

City Council wanted to hear how residents would choose to spend nearly $40 million. (Photo | WLVR)

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Allentown City Council held a special meeting Wednesday to hear how people want nearly $40 million in American Rescue Plan funding spent.

But many residents bypassed ideas about spending it on infrastructure and said they would prefer the money to be used to end the poverty that leads to gun violence.

Listen to the story.

Proposals to spend it include infrastructure investments and economic development.

However, for many who showed up Wednesday, the elementary school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, was fresh on their minds. 

Armando Jimenez-Carbarin, with Make the Road PA, an advocacy group for Latinos and the working class, said the mass shooting in the town with a large Hispanic population hit close to home.

Some who spoke said they want more law enforcement funding. 

But many representatives from nonprofits that help with homelessness, mental health, re-entry programs, and food told the council that these programs desperately need funding. 

And that poverty in the city leads to gun violence.

Jimenez-Carbarin called the COVID-19 relief money “a once in a generation opportunity.”

“Solutions could be living wages, workers rights for all, regardless of immigration status, better funds for our repairs to our homes and affordable housing,” he said.

Many residents invited to the public meeting showed up in orange shirts from activist group Promise Neighborhoods that read “End Gun Violence.” 

Hasshan Batts, Promise Neighborhoods executive director, said systematic change is needed.

“The thing that we found across all socioeconomic groups, across all racials groups, all demographics is that safety is the number one issue in the community: everyone wants to feel safe,” Batts said.

“Gun violence is also a stem of poverty,” local activist Pas Simpson said. 

“I tell you, when I was broke, I’d shoot you straight up,” Simpson said, “When we have other opportunities and we have other options we do better.” 

The city has until 2024 to figure out a plan and needs to spend federal funding by 2026.

But many say the money is needed now. 

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