A coalition of Rhode Island lawmakers are calling on legislative leadership to increase by $800,000 funding to a Providence violence prevention non-profit. 

The Nonviolence Institute has received $200,000 from the state  for the last four years, and Gov. Dan McKee’s budget proposal for FY 2022 would maintain the same level of funding. But after a spate of gun violence in the last week including three fatal shootings  in Providence and Pawtucket, a group of lawmakers is proposing boosting that funding to $1 million. 

A letter outlining the proposal, written by Rep. Jose Batista (D-Providence) has garnered signatures from 25 other representatives and more than a dozen senators. 

Batista represents the Washington Park neighborhood of Providence, where nine people were injured in a gunfight last week. He also attended a press conference last week, where the state’s Congressional delegation and McKee touted the need for funding for gun violence mitigation, but did not propose any specific funding increase.

“There's been so much attention paid to this issue, there have been so many folks...coming together to realize how serious of a problem we're facing with gun violence,” Batista said in an interview. 

Legislation aimed at reducing the availability of guns may help, he said. 

“But a big part of it is getting on the ground, in people's homes in the community, trying to de-escalate situations before they arise,” Batista said.  

That’s the strategy  the Nonviolence Institute’s outreach team has used for  years. After the shooting in Providence that injured nine people, Nonviolence Institute workers spent the days in the neighborhood, in an effort  to temper possible retaliatory violence.

The state has provided money to the organization since 2007. The amount of funding has fluctuated between roughly $15,000 in 2013 and more than $215,000 in 2016. Prior to 2017, the nonprofit received money through a community grant program, funded by the state, according to House spokesperson Larry Berman.

According to Cedric Huntley, the executive director of the Institute, the number of outreach workers the organization employs have declined from about 17 in 2015, to about five currently. The organization also wants to expand its reach into Central Falls, Pawtucket and Woonsocket. 

During the press conference, the idea of using federal funding, including American Rescue Plan money, to pay for gun violence mitigation was raised, though speakers offered no specifics. 

“The Governor’s team is looking at the availability of federal funding from sources including the American Rescue Plan, the CARES Act, federal grant opportunities and state general revenue, and how it can be used to stop gun violence and help us ensure every Rhode Islander is safe,” said Alana O’Hare a spokesperson for the Governor in an emailed statement. 

Batista said the expected surplus in the state budget should allow for the flexibility of the increased funding for the Nonviolence Institute.

“I feel like we are in a fiscal situation where we can afford to do this and, and thinking about it from a community perspective, we can't afford not to do it,” Batista said.