Reparations Committee approves direct cash payments for two recipients, announces progress on community survey


Daily file illustration by Emma Ruck

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

Jessica Ma, Senior Staffer

The Reparations Committee voted 4-1 to amend Evanston’s Restorative Housing Program to allow two recipients to receive benefits in the form of direct cash payments during its Thursday meeting.

The committee selected the first 16 reparations recipients in January 2022. Each recipient is supposed to receive $25,000, which can only be used for mortgage assistance, home improvements or home purchase. The recipients must spend the money by the end of March. But two recipients who aren’t homeowners and don’t plan to purchase a home have been unable to use the grant.

“We have two (recipients) who have not been able to use the benefit in the way that the program was initially written,” said committee member and former Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th). “I want to make the motion that we extend a cash benefit of $25,000 to each of the two.”  

According to Rue Simmons, the committee has already finished dispersing money to the remainder of recipients. 

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) was the only committee member to vote against the amendment. He said he did so because the option of direct cash payments should be extended to every person in the Ancestor category, who lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 —  not just two specific recipients. 

“We should make this amendment concrete and clear, so everyone has this option,” Reid said. 

Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd) abstained from voting because she is related to the two recipients who asked to use reparations for rent. 

The amendment will help the two recipients in question because the committee needs to move forward right now, Rue Simmons said. The committee will confer with the city’s Corporation Counsel about allowing all future recipients to receive direct cash payments, she added. 

Likewise, committee member Claire McFarland Barber said she does not oppose Reid’s proposal but would like more information before voting. 

The committee agreed to schedule a special meeting next week to further discuss direct cash payments.

“I would move that we come back as soon as possible,” Reid said. “I would like to get this program right as soon as possible, so that all ancestors have this opportunity.” 

During public comment, community member Tina Paden, who has been advocating for direct cash payments since the program’s inception, said she’s glad the two recipients will be able to receive the money. But, like Reid, Paden said direct cash payments should be available to all recipients. 

At the meeting, NU political science Prof. Alvin Tillery Jr. also answered questions about a survey his research team is conducting about community attitudes on reparations. 

“It’s a multi-pronged approach to understanding how this work has landed on our community,” Tillery said. “This first wave is an attitudes survey — how people in a large sample feel about the work that’s been done and what’s driving these attitudes.”

Community member Charline Nyomo spoke about appreciating the intellectual environment NU brings to the city but raised concerns about the University’s role in the research. In the past, people in authority at NU contributed to the racism in Evanston, Nyomo said. 

As a tenured professor, Tillery said NU administrators aren’t “pulling his strings.” He works at NU, but Tillery said he does not represent NU at large. 

“No matter what the community says about reparations — up or down, positive or negative, love it or hate it, change it or don’t — I will report it in an honest way,” Tillery said. “I want every voice heard.” 

Rue Simmons said the committee is working toward reopening the application for more residents to receive reparations.

Reparations work is ongoing, she said, and it must take place at the federal level in addition to Evanston’s program. 

“This interest and appreciation in how this initial benefit has given hope and trust in what’s possible for reparations should be acknowledged,” Rue Simmons said. “This program should be extended.” 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @JessicaMa2025

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