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Submitted by the Family Independence Initiative
The Family Independence Initiative (FII) on March 22 launched the Evanston Equitable Recovery Fund, a program to provide 25 Evanston qualified residents with a $300 per month payment for 10 months. The $75,000 program is privately funded by the Family Independence Initiative and supported financially by Economic Security for Illinois (ESIL).
“Evanston’s investment in the descendants of slavery is important, not simply because it’s the first government entity to do so, but because the City continues to find ways to do more,” said Family Independence Initiatives National Partnership Director Ebony Scott. “The cash initiatives FII operates around the country demonstrate success: people do better for themselves and their communities if they are given the funds they need.”
The initiative was embraced by the Evanston City Council’s Subcommittee on Reparations as part of a broader effort to create reparations for African Americans impacted by racist legacies in the Chicago suburb. The Subcommittee on Reparations, led by Alderwoman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward; Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward; and Alderwoman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward; spearheaded the effort.
“We are grateful that FII and ESIL recognize our commitment to repair and justice in the Black community with this partnership. This program allows us to pilot this benefit with the hopes to build and expand it in the future—including, we hope, a transition to unrestricted cash benefits for qualified residents,” said Ald. Simmons. “Repair is needed urgently in the Black community, and we will keep taking tangible steps to make that happen.”
“This is us saying yes to a cash fund,” said Ald. Braithwaite “I want to thank the Family Independence Initiative and Economic Security for Illinois for the investment and support in our effort to bring reparations to Evanston. I am confident that this is the first step toward continuing future partnership.”
Key to the initiative is that there are no requirements for how recipients must spend their money—recipients can spend it as they choose. This differs from many anti-poverty government efforts, including the City’s own proposed Reparations Fund, which must be used to cover housing costs (e.g., downpayment assistance, mortgage, or home repairs.)
“Whenever a local government puts unrestricted cash directly in the hands of residents who need it most, that’s progress,” said Harish I. Patel, Director of Economic Security for Illinois. “We are proud to partner with Evanston in its efforts to bring cash to people.”
Applications for the fund opened on March 22 and will close at 5 p.m. on April 5. The fund will randomly select 25 recipients who qualify. The fund is administered through FII’s UpTogether platform, which hosts and implements other direct cash distribution efforts across the country. Only one application per household will be accepted, and applicants must demonstrate that they or an ancestor lived in Evanston between 1919-1969. To submit an application, residents should visit http://fund.uptogether.org/evanston.
“It is such an honor for the City of Evanston, and its efforts to bring reparations are being recognized by groups like the Family Independence Initiative,” said Ald. Rainey. “Their work to address economic insecurity with unrestricted cash payments has made a difference in many families’ lives all over our country. We thank them for recognizing we are on the right track.”
Evanston’s program builds on the success of similarly conceived guaranteed income pilots that have been gaining traction around the world. Recently released data from a guaranteed income pilot in Stockton, Cal., found that recipients of $500 monthly checks were twice as likely to pay unexpected bills or pay down debt, saw increased job security and decreased income volatility, and found increased overall stability in the broader community. Results demonstrated that the recipients mostly used monthly checks to cover essentials, like gas, groceries, and utilities.