City Budgeting for Equity & Recovery

A new program from Bloomberg Philanthropies, through What Works Cities, to support cities’ equitable recovery efforts

What Works Cities
City Budgeting for Equity & Recovery
5 min readAug 17, 2020


Issue Overview

COVID-19 is exacting unprecedented distress on cities in America and on the lives of residents. A weakened economy is crippling city revenues, at the same time that residents desperately need more government services and assistance. The fiscal decisions city leaders make today will affect all residents, but we know that the impacts will be felt disproportionately by communities already in need.

Nearly 90 percent of 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 to address fiscal challenges stemming from the pandemic.

Mayors and city financial leaders will face incredibly complicated and critical fiscal decisions over the next 12–18 months. And while these decisions will affect all residents, evidence shows that they also have the unintended potential to deepen racial inequities and hurt communities already in need.

Program Overview

Bloomberg Philanthropies, through its What Works Cities Initiative, is launching the City Budgeting for Equity & Recovery to provide critical support to mayors and city financial leaders as they navigate these challenging fiscal times. The program, which will run in duration from October 2020 to December 2021, will bring together municipal finance expertise and data-driven solutions to support cities in implementing new and equity-centered interventions to help them recover financially from COVID-19.

This program is an unprecedented opportunity for a group of city leaders to come together to absorb the most cutting-edge lessons on bringing equity in city budget and financial planning matters. The program will cover challenges most pressing to fiscal and budget leaders in this unique crisis, such as:

  • Effectively accessing and spending COVID relief funds (e.g. CARES Act);
  • Financing that enables strong fiscal 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.

For Mayors, the program promises to deliver world-class coaching and expertise for you and key members of your senior budget team as you work toward an equitable recovery.

For Chief Financial Officers and Budget Directors, it offers an unparalleled professional development and peer networking experience that will support you during a challenge unlike any other.

Through the program, participants will have:

  • Exclusive access to guidance from national leaders in municipal finance: Through a virtual learning program, Chief Financial Officers and Budget Directors will learn the latest and best strategies to manage key aspects of municipal fiscal health from leaders in the public, private, and academic sectors, as well as from one another. The program recognizes the important role financial leaders play in creating more equitable outcomes for city residents and will emphasize strategies city leaders can leverage to this end.
  • A powerful network of city peers: Senior municipal finance leaders will have regular and facilitated engagement with their peers, enabling cities to learn from one another as they navigate this very complex time. The program will feature regular, small-group interactive workshops among city leaders to support them in advancing their priority strategies.
  • Customized support and technical assistance: Mayors and their financial leadership teams will receive support to create and implement a tangible action plan that applies the lessons from the program to concrete new fiscal strategies that address the unique needs and opportunities in each participating city.

To be considered for selection in this cohort and learning community, cities should complete and submit the online application no later than Monday, August 31, 2020.

Program Details

Participating mayors and financial leaders will learn collaboratively alongside peers, and share the lessons from the program with cities across the country. Participants will be asked to commit to the following:

  • Mayors will commit to participating in up to five sessions over the course of the program to ensure the program is effectively advancing mayoral priorities.
  • The city’s top financial leaders — the equivalent of the Chief Finance Officer and Budget Director — will invest 10–12 hours per month in this robust skills building and technical assistance program, all focused on equipping your city with cutting edge strategies, deepening your professional network with peers, and advancing a concrete plan of action that puts your city at the forefront.
  • Mayors and financial leaders will commit to pursuing new, financially sound, and equity-centered strategies to managing their finances and budgets.

Eligibility requirements

The program is designed for cities with populations between 100,000 and 1,000,000 residents.

In addition, participation by the mayor and/or the mayor’s senior staff in the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Covid-19 Local Response Initiative is required to participate in this program.

Cities who meet the above requirements and compared to other cities in the U.S. have relatively high levels of inequity and need among residents, a high degree of financial distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and whose mayor and fiscal leaders are committed to addressing inequities in their city’s approaches to municipal finance and to build a more equitable city budget are especially encouraged to apply.

If you are interested in participating, please fill out this application by August 31, 2020.

Who should participate

  • Mayors
  • Chief Financial Officers and Budget Director (or city leaders in equivalent roles)

How to apply

Complete and submit this online application by Monday, August 31, 2020.

The application should be completed by the mayor and at least one of the proposed program participants — the equivalent of a Chief Financial Officer or Budget Director.

Important dates

  • August 31: Application deadline
  • By September 25: Cities notified of acceptance into program
  • Week of October 12: Virtual learning program kicks off
  • Program duration: October 2020 — December 2021



What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative launched in 2015, helps local governments across the country drive progress in their cities through the effective use of data and evidence to tackle pressing challenges that affect their communities. For more information, please visit



What Works Cities
City Budgeting for Equity & Recovery

Helping leading cities across the U.S. use data and evidence to improve results for their residents. Launched by @BloombergDotOrg in April 2015.