Reparations Committee considers rolling out payments at quicker intervals


Daily file illustration by Emma Ruck

The Reparations Committee approved direct cash payments for two reparations recipients Thursday.

Yiming Fu, Managing Editor

Evanston might start rolling its reparations payments out faster after a motion introduced at Wednesday’s Reparations Committee meeting.

Instead of releasing the payments in intervals, the committee hopes to provide them to the next reparations recipients as soon as it gets enough money from tax revenue to do so.

Committee member and former Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) said she introduced the motion at Wednesday’s meeting because many residents have expressed urgency for getting the payments out to the recipients.

“Reparations doesn’t stop at the first 16 (recipients),” Rue Simmons said. “The work continues.”

Last March, Evanston made national headlines when City Council approved the Restorative Housing Program, the first step in the city’s larger reparations initiative. It allocated $400,000 to the program, which will give up to $25,000 to Black Evanston residents who either lived in the city or have parents or grandparents who lived in the city between 1919 and 1969.

Recipients can use the money to cover a down payment on a new home, pay off an existing mortgage or renovate a property they own.

The city announced the first 16 recipients in January. In May, the city announced that all the recipients have chosen how to spend their money.

All 16 recipients are “Ancestors,” meaning they are Black Evanston residents who were at least 18 years old by 1969. At Wednesday’s meeting, Rue Simmons said there are 130 Ancestors in line who qualify for payments. The city aims to make payments to all Ancestors before moving on to “Direct Descendants,” or children of people who qualify as Ancestors. 

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th), a member of the Reparations Committee, said the city randomly assigned an order for all the Ancestors to receive their payments at the January meeting. The payments will go to those recipients as soon as the city has acquired the funds necessary to make them. 

“So we already have a number 17 and a number 18 and so on,” he said after the meeting.

The reparations program is funded by a 3% tax on cannabis sales in the city. There is currently only one commercial dispensary in Evanston, Zen Leaf on Maple Avenue, that contributes to the fund.

The tax generated less revenue than expected, according to a memorandum Parks and Recreation Department Director Audrey Thompson shared at a Reparations Committee meeting in May.  

The committee approved the motion to fast-track the payments, and it awaits City Council’s final decision. 

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the Reparations Committee confirmed Rue Simmons as the new committee chair after former Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) stepped down from City Council on Monday. The next 2nd Ward alderperson will take Braithwaite’s spot on the committee. Three seats on the committee are reserved for the 2nd, 5th and 8th ward alderpeople, who represent Evanston’s three majority-minority wards.

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