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City funding to curb gun violence delayed as shootings surge

Community leaders say the money has not been distributed fast enough to meet the crisis on Portland's streets.

PORTLAND, Ore. — As Portland continues to face a surge in gun violence, the latest round of funding for community organizations working to address the crisis has been delayed.

In November, 35 community groups submitted grant requests to secure a portion of $600,000 available in city funds. The organizations expected to learn their application status by December 27, 2021, with the final grant awards announced in early January 2022.

Now, those organizations could have to wait until March, almost a year after city council allocated $4.1 million to fund community-based efforts to address gun violence. 

RELATED: 3 people killed, 2 injured in Portland shootings to start 2022

In an email sent to grant applicants earlier this week, the city's Office of Violence Prevention said it expects the funds to be fully awarded in the first quarter of 2022, writing in part:

"We apologize for the initial time frame change. We understand the urgency of this matter and we are doing our best to move the application review process forward and deliver results in a timely manner."

Leaders in the community say the money has not been distributed fast enough to meet the crisis on Portland's streets.

"It is an emergency and somebody needs to understand that this is long overdue and get this funding moving ASAP," said Pastor J.W. Matt Hennessee, a longtime community leader who has felt the impact of gun violence directly

Community activist Royal Harris, who organized the March Against Murder in May, said he's frustrated but not surprised at the delay.

"We have a history within our city and within city government, and how it moves funds and resources through the Black community and other at-risk communities that is very slow and tedious,” said Harris.  

There were more than 1,200 confirmed shootings in the city last year — the most on record. Of those, 386 people were injured and 69 were killed. 

RELATED: What we know about Portland's homicide victims from 2021

As recently as 2019, Portland had less than 400 shootings.

To address the growing crisis, city council allocated $4.1 million to fund community groups working in the neighborhoods hardest-hit by gun violence.

But since the plan was approved back in April, the city has been slow to get money into the hands of organizations.

In May, nearly one million dollars was distributed to three anti-violence programs as part of Phase 1. By June, another $65,000 had been allocated to three organizations doing anti-violence work. 

By mid-August, the largest round of funding, $2 million, had not reached the four community organizations that had been approved by the city. Those dollars eventually arrived several weeks later. 

Just over one million dollars is yet to be allocated.

Portland City Commissioner Carmen Rubio, who helped spearhead the initial plan back in April, is disappointed by the delayed rollout.

RELATED: Portland’s plan to use traffic barrels to curb gun violence isn’t working, data suggests

“We should have been able to tackle this more quickly but the city was not equipped to get this off the ground. We couldn’t afford to lose all of that time. But we did," said Rubio. 

The latest round of funding, $600,000 as part of Phase 4, was earmarked for small and emerging community organizations that had not previously worked with city government. 

However, the grant application did not specify how the size of an organization would be determined. 

Upon reviewing the 35 grant applications, city administrators noticed a number of larger, well-established organizations had applied, according to city spokesperson Rich Chatman. 

Therefore, the city says it's retroactively implementing a $1 million annual revenue threshold. That means seven organizations that applied are no longer eligible for this round of funding, said Chatman. 

The city is still verifying the annual revenue of two additional organizations. 

WATCH: Portland begins implementing $6M plan to curb gun violence 

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