This is a moment of both uncertainty and opportunity. While city leaders are acutely aware that the pandemic is not yet over, it is also clear that we have entered a new phase. Mayors are doing all they can to increase vaccination rates and mitigate the effects of the virus, while also looking ahead to economic growth and recovery.
The pandemic has made clear that robust local networks are essential for healthy cities. Active networks provided food for their neighbors, cared for children when daycare centers closed, offered support when families contracted COVID-19, encouraged vaccination by trusted voices, helped local businesses keep their doors open, and much more.
That is why we are pleased to be launching our newest Love Your Block grant program at this time.
Love Your Block brings city leaders and residents together to build stronger neighborhoods. This newest round of grants will continue to help cities combat the negative effects of vacant and abandoned properties, which have only been exacerbated by COVID-19. It will also help build a foundation for more connected and resilient communities.
Love Your Block has been shown to be a powerful tool for growth, connection, and change, even during difficult times. Cities in our 2018-2020 Love Your Block cohort used mini-grants to bolster community-led responses during the pandemic. These small grants, usually between $500 and $2,000, helped residents provide personal protective equipment, food, and support to their neighbors.
Additionally, two studies by the Urban Institute have found that Love Your Block creates ties among residents and to city hall that foster local networks and spur collective action. These reciprocal relationships can also lead to improvements within city hall, enabling government policy and practices that are more responsive to community needs.
Now, as cities begin the process of recovering from the pandemic, we are renewing our Love Your Block grant program with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies. We have made some changes to adapt the program to the realities on the ground during this period of recovery, and to incorporate lessons we’ve learned in more than 10 years of administering Love Your Block.
With increased grant awards and new avenues to cultivate local talent and grow capacity in city hall, we believe that Love Your Block can help cities meet the challenges and opportunities ahead.
This new round of grants increases the funds available to cities to support local projects. Love Your Block funds may now also be used in some situations to support nonprofit organizations, key volunteer roles, and community partners working alongside city staff to make these projects possible. Community partnerships have always been an important part of Love Your Block. We know that many of these organizations are cash-strapped due to the pandemic and cannot do this work without additional support. We are pleased to allow the flexibility to recognize and compensate them for their valuable contributions to Love Your Block.
As before, cities will build capacity to engage residents and implement the program with up to two AmeriCorps VISTA members placed in city hall. And our new Love Your Block Fellows will provide an additional avenue for cities to recruit local volunteers, engage long-time residents, and invite community voices to guide and administer the program. The Love Your Block Fellowship is a paid full-time opportunity for community stewards to share their insights and gain professional experience within city hall.
These new elements of Love Your Block are part of a deepening commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in all our work. Love Your Block has always recognized the importance of resident insight into issues of shared concern and the need for communities to play an integral role in addressing the challenges they face. These changes expand the role for community representation in program design and implementation.
To meet this moment, city leaders must be responsive to residents and communities must be empowered to solve local problems. This can only happen when city leaders and residents are partners, working together toward common goals. Love Your Block helps build those partnerships, block by block, to make cities stronger.