Evanston, Illinois made headlines earlier this year by becoming the first city in the US to authorize “reparations” in the form of payments to compensate Black Americans for abuses done to family members. The Chicago suburb’ City Council voted back in March to distribute $400K to eligible black households, with each qualifying family receiving up to $25K for homeownership and or improvement grants, as well as mortgage assistance.
But while proponents on the left praised the move as unprecedented, it turns out that those who designed the proposal were careful to ensure the word “reparations” was nowhere near it. In fact, a lengthy Bloomberg piece telling the story of how the proposal came to be shows that its backers were simply hoping to put new revenue from cannabis legalization to use righting historical wrongs in Evanston.
For starters, only 16 people will initially be eligible for the money (only $400K was approved and it will be doled out in increments of $25K). And what’s more, instead of receiving cash payments, the money must go directly to a bank or a contractor to prevent the recipient from incurring a state or federal tax penalty.
In essence, this shows the futility of making ‘reparations’ a reality via a series of local or municipal movements: there are myriad boundaries at the federal level that make it unrealistic.
Right now, the money can only be used to help qualified Black residents buy homes, fix them up, or stay in them. Right now, the priority is the grants go to any Black resident of Evanston from 1919 to 1969, the year after the federal government passed the Fair Housing Act, then any of their direct descendants, then anyone who moved to the city after that and can show that they’ve faced discrimination.
Even supporters of reparations said they were underwhelmed.
“We want cash payments. I want reparations like any Black person” And the big question: How much? They decided on grants of $25,000—not a lot of money in Evanston, where the average home sells for many multiples of that. The $400,000 covers just 16 people to start with. That’s a tough number, another reality check. There are other restrictions: The residents won’t get the cash directly. The city says that would likely require them to pay state and federal taxes on it. Instead, the money will go to the financial institution providing a new mortgage or holding an existing one or to the closing agent handling a down payment. It could go to a contractor making repairs on the recipient’s home or to Cook County to pay property taxes.
At a virtual town meeting held on March 22, Black residents lined up to explain why they supported the program, but didn’t support calling it “reparations”. – READ MORE
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