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Evanston, Illinois first in US to pay reparations to Black residents


The plan, which could be the first of its kind in the U.S., is to distribute $400,000 to eligible Black households. 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."

The funding for the program will come from the 3% tax on the sale of recreational marijuana and donations. The city expects to spend about $10 million over 10 years.

Qualifying residents must either have lived in or been a direct descendant of a Black person who lived in Evanston between 1919 to 1969 and who suffered discrimination in housing because of city ordinances, policies or practices.

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-Texas, 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.

President Biden has signaled support, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters last month.

"He certainly would support a study of reparations. 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.

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