Illinois City Becomes First in America to Pay Reparations to Black Residents
Evanston votes to distribute funds to eligible black households
An Illinois city has become the first in America to approve a plan to pay reparations to eligible black residents.
Evanston, a Chicagoland suburb, will distribute funds to black residents over past discrimination and the lingering effects of slavery.
The City Council in Evanston, Ill., voted 8-1 late Monday to approve the reparations plan.
Evanston established its reparations program - the first of its kind in the US - in 2019.
The plan commits $10 million over a decade using funding from the city's three percent tax on recreational marijuana sales.
On Monday the city council launched the program with a first phase, consisting of a $400,000 round of payments focused on addressing housing inequities.
The first phase will provide $25,000 to up to 16 eligible black residents for home repairs, down payments, or mortgage payments, in a nod toward historically racist housing policies.
Black residents are eligible for the housing program if they, or their ancestors, lived in the city between 1919 and 1969 or if they can show they suffered housing discrimination due to the city's policies.
The recipients will be randomly selected if there are more applicants than available funds in the housing program.
The Associated Press reported that qualifying households in the city of 73,000 would be eligible to receive $25,000 for home repairs or down payments on property.
Ald. Robin Rue Simmons, the lawmaker who proposed the initiative back in 2019, called the approval a first step but said more needs to be done.
"It is, alone, not enough," she said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
"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."
She told the New York Times, "It is the reckoning.
"We’re really proud as a city to be leading the nation toward repair and justice."
Simmons said pro-reparations groups have offered pro-bono legal assistance if the program is challenged in court.
The City Council acted after dozens of citizens addressed the body and the plan received some pushback from several.
Alderman Cicely Fleming, the lone vote against the plan, said she supports reparations, but what the City Council was debating is a housing plan that is being called reparations.
She said the people should dictate the terms of how their grievances are repaired.
Fleming described the program as paternalistic, and it assumes black people can’t manage their own money.
In January, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), reintroduced legislation that would fund a commission for studying and developing proposals for giving reparations to African Americans.
Reparations have become an especially controversial topic in the past year and encountered pushback from Congressional Republicans.
Hundreds of communities and organizations across the country are considering providing reparations to black people.
They range from the state of California to cities like Amherst, Massachusetts, Providence, Rhode Island, Asheville, North Carolina, and Iowa City, Iowa; religious denominations like the Episcopal Church; and prominent colleges like Georgetown University in Washington.
Joe Biden has signaled support.
"He certainly would support a study of reparations," Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters last month, according to the Hill.
"He understands we don’t need a study to take action right now on systemic racism, so he wants to take actions within his own government in the meantime," she said.