The City Council in Evanston, Ill., voted 8-1 late Monday in favor of making reparations available to Black residents for past discrimination and the lingering effects of slavery,, which could be the first of its kind in the U.S.
The plan is to distribute $400,000 to eligible black households. The Associated Press reported that qualifying households 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.”
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.
“This is set aside for an injured community that happens to be Black, that was injured by the city of Evanston for anti-Black housing policies,” Simmons said.
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.
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.
The efforts, some of which have been underway for years, have gained momentum in the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd last May. President Joe Biden has even expressed support for creating a federal commission to study Black reparations, a proposal that’s languished for decades in Congress.
The Associated Press contributed to this report