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Public Funding for Community Development in Milwaukee

In recent years, concerns have been raised by neighborhood-based organizations in Milwaukee regarding the stability of key public funding sources that support their programs. To better understand the extent to which local community development efforts have been impacted by federal, state, and local government funding levels, the Public Policy Forum examined funding trends for nine heavily utilized programs in three broad service categories: housing and development; education and workforce development; and health and human services. The programs included in our analysis were selected based on conversations with community development leaders in the three Milwaukee neighborhoods served by the Zilber Neighborhood Initiative – Clarke Square, Lindsay Heights, and Layton Boulevard West.

This report examines each of these programs individually, providing information on how government appropriations at the federal and state levels make their way to Milwaukee and its neighborhoods, and how funding for services in Milwaukee have been impacted in recent years by overall programmatic cuts or increases. The timeframe used – 2007 to 2015 – is long enough to illustrate funding changes that have occurred from before the Great Recession to the present.

The analysis finds that funding for most programs has decreased, intensifying pressure on community-based organizations to find efficiencies and on private philanthropy to fill the gap.

Other key findings from the report include the following: 

  • While reduced appropriations tell part of the story, the re-direction of federal or state dollars from Milwaukee to other parts of the state also is a factor.
  • To sustain current service levels, efforts will be needed to supplement declining federal resources with local public funding, private sector support, or through service innovations. 
 

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