Evanston’s Reparations Committee is looking to gather information to move forward with a direct cash benefit program after City Council unanimously approved the creation of a one last month.
“We have sufficient evidence of City of Evanston policies and practices,” City Attorney Nicholas Cummings said. “What we don’t have is the research to show that a cash benefit would be a narrowly tailored remedy to those harms.”
He said that research would have to be done to quantify the amount of funds that would be needed to negate the harm done.
Cummings said he isn’t sure that the city would be able to afford the amount that would be due to eachrecipient, but that compiling the evidence would help make the case for the direct cash payments and hold up the program if challenged in court.
“I know it’s very difficult to try and quantify what kind of harm that is,” he said. “But if we had some number associated with it, I think we would be on solid footing to create a cash benefit program.”
Committee Member Robin Rue Simmons said she has been in contact with several groups who could handle that research and hopes to bring it to Cummings soon.
“It takes work even to get to this initial restorative housing program,” she said. “There’s a ton of work, research and that work needs to be done.”
For the direct cash payment element of the housing program, the committee does not have plans to police how recipients use their funds and will use an honor system trusting the funds are used for housing expenses such as rent or furniture.
“We don’t want any unreasonable oversight. It should be up to the recipient to use how they choose,” Simmons said.
Cummings said that oversight wouldn’t even be possible with the amount of available staff.
The committee is also looking to reestablish community working groups that were used when the program was first beginning. These groups, consisting of five to seven members, would work on three areas — housing, economic development and educational initiatives — to see how these issues can be remedied with reparations efforts.
Partial financials for the reparations fund were discussed by the committee during the April 6 meeting as well. According to Assistant to the City Manager Tasheik Kerr, $43,077.22 in donations has been made to the fund along with $524,822 from the real estate transfer tax. Fund amounts from the cannabis tax are not available due to there only being one dispensary in the city contributing to the fund, thus releasing that information would be considered a breach of confidentiality.
“The sooner that we get to distributing these funds to the eligible descendants, it’ll give us more credibility as a committee and also it will let the city staff be relieved of a policing policy of the recipient,” Committee Member Carlis Sutton said.
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