White House Gives Baltimore a Helping Hand

Baltimore City is one of just three jurisdictions nationwide that has a dedicated White House task force. This task force was created to help the city navigate federal bureaucracy, stimulate economic development, and pinpoint funding opportunities.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

 “We needed things that the federal government also thought we needed,” said Andrew Smullian, Baltimore’s deputy mayor for government relations and labor. “When you have these Cabinet-level agencies taking an interest in your city programs — it’s been great to have that level of attention.”

Baltimore was chosen in part because of the unrest that followed Gray’s fatal spinal injury in police custody in April 2015 and also because of a report a few weeks later — widely read within the White House — that ranked Baltimore last among 100 large jurisdictions for a poor child’s ability to climb out of poverty later in life.

The Baltimore task force is led by Nate Loewentheil, a senior policy adviser at the National Economic Council who was born in Baltimore and whose father co-owned Mencken’s Cultured Pearl restaurant near Hollins Market.

The group includes senior officials at more than a dozen federal agencies who meet regularly with representatives of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration.

The task force has among other things helped the city continue a summer meal program, provide home health care visits to new mothers, and secure funding for a jobs training program.

The article also notes the task force is part of a broader initiative from the White House seeking more direct engagement with local jurisdictions amidst touch fiscal times.

Federal funding is expected to make up about 6 percent of Baltimore’s current operating budget, compared with 8.4 percent in 2009.

Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said the likelihood of new money being set aside for cities is small, no matter who wins the White House this fall. That means the federal government has to rely on efforts such as the task force to squeeze new ideas and funding out of the sources already in place.

“We’ve had to find more creative ways to use existing programs,” Cardin said. “The task force has helped us in that regard.”

For more information read the full article in The Baltimore Sun