Milwaukee officials welcome Pres. Biden's approach to use ARPA funds to address violent crimes

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention is encouraged by President Joe Biden's announcement asking cities to use federal Covid-19 relief funding to address an uptick in violent crimes.

This year is on pace to be one of the most violent years in Milwaukee's history with officials stressing more guns appear to be a factor in escalating incidents.

On Wednesday, June 23, President Biden laid out his crime prevention strategies to address a rise in gun violence and emphasized state and local officials seeing surges to use Covid-19 relief funding to hire more police officers and direct aid to violence prevention programs.

Arnitta Holliman, director of Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention (OVP), said that money "absolutely needs to be allocated to prevent violence."

"We are in a state of crisis," said Holliman. "It's an all hands on deck approach and we are confident the mayor will put funds towards violence prevention and healing."

In May, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett committed to using a portion of the city's coronavirus relief aid toward violence prevention, estimating of $8.5 million over the next years, $90 million for sustainable housing, and $40 million for neighborhood safety. This funding is not finalized yet, but Barrett floated the idea as part of a package to address racial inequalities with a focus on marginalized communities.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers also voiced support for Biden's approach but believes the local governments should make those decisions instead of using state coronavirus relief aid on violence prevention efforts.

"I am more inclined to spend any relief funds on the industries most impact by the pandemic," said Evers during an event announcing grants for the tourism and entertainment industry.

"If there are industries where we can make a dent in that arena, yes, but I think local are more in a position to make that decision."

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