Monday night was one for the books in Evanston, the suburb located just north of Chicago. As one community newspaper reported, “If you blinked, you could have missed…[it when t]he council unanimously approved adding direct cash payments to the city’s reparations program. It also approved creating and designing a new reparations initiative benefit program for direct cash payment.”
Remarkably enough, both the direct cash payment agenda items “were passed without debate or questions.”
Devon Reid, a Council Member representing the 8th Ward, was in attendance and stated, “Tonight, we passed a historic amendment to the reparations program…It was just on the consent agenda. There’s no pause, no folks coming out protesting, no dissent among the council. This is a special place.”
The direct cash payment option was first presented to City Council by the Reparations Committee earlier this month, and now that it’s approved, all grant recipients will be eligible including their ancestors and direct descendants.
Previously, recipients were only permitted to use the $25,000 grant toward specifically home renovations, mortgage payments, or a down payment on home purchases, now recipients will have much needed flexibility in how their payments are apportioned.
Reid continued with the fact through this initiative, funds will be able to allocated “in a much more expedient fashion…We will be able to get that money out to folks and be able to provide some repair to our Black community and to the harmed community who has suffered from housing discrimination,” adding “I think we should trust our ancestors, trust the folks who’ve lived through this period of harm and allow them — without jumping through hoops — choose the fourth option of direct cash payment, which is the most efficient way to get this repair to folks…so that we’re not losing more seniors, or ancestors, we’re not losing more and more of them while they’re waiting to have this repair distributed to them.”
Hopefully, recipients will not have to worry about any tax cliffs, as the city of Evanston’s Law Department has already flagged a potential flag via a memo to the Council regarding “the issue of tax liability with the cash payments.” The Law Department’s proposed solution is to ensure that any direct cash payments “come from a general welfare fund, instead of the city’s Reparations Fund, to ensure the beneficiary is exempted from income tax on the money.”
All eyes are on Evanston with being the first in the country to start this reparations process, but this trend does seem to be sweeping across the country, as other cities like Detroit, Michigan and Asheville, North Carolina implement programs of their own.