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The city council in Evanston, Illinois voted 8-1 to approve the city’s first-of-its-kind reparations program Monday evening. Councilors designed it to compensate Black residents for racist housing policies that robbed communities of wealth. The program caught national attention when leaders introduced it in 2019, the first city to move beyond simply discussing reparations.
Officials say the sales tax revenue and donations will fund the $10 million program. The specific portion of the $10 million program that councilors approved Monday establishes a $400,000 housing grant program.
To be eligible, residents must be a black person who lived in Evanston between 1919 to 1969, or a descendant of such a person. Moreover, applicants also qualify if they’ve been a victim of discrimination due to the city’s policies or practices after 1969.
Reparations program a “first step”
In particular, eligible applicants will be awarded up to $25,000 according to Kimberly Richardson, the interim assistant city manager for Evanston, Illinois. The fund will help with a home down-payment or closing cost assistance within the city. Recipients can also use it to help pay for repairs, improvements or modernizations of an Evanston property. More than that, the fund will assist homeowners in paying down mortgage principal, interest, or late penalties.
Robin Rue Simmons, who first proposed the reparations initiative, said the specific portion approved on Monday represented a first step. “It is, alone, not enough,” Simmons said. “We all know that the road to repair and justice in the Black community is going to be a generation of work. It’s going to be many programs and initiatives, and more funding.”
Likewise, a leader in the fight for reparations also released a statement. “We’re very excited to see the first national direct benefit from some of the harms we’ve had to experience from the past,” said Kamm Howard, co-chair of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America. “The more local initiatives [that] occur, the more impetus there is on the federal government to act.”