Reparations Committee member Carlis Sutton uses his glasses to read the number on a ball at the committee’s reparations lottery drawing on Jan. 13, 2022. Credit: Richard Cahan
It’s been a year since the first 16 reparations recipients were selected, but two of them haven’t been able to take advantage of their $25,000 grants because of restrictions on how the money may be used. And now they’re running out of time.
The deadline to use the funds is this March, Tasheik Kerr, assistant to the city manager, said Wednesday, Jan. 25 in a recorded interview with the RoundTable. If those eligible don’t use the grant by March, they will lose access to the money and the $50,000 will remain in the reparations funds.
Since the stakes are high, knowing the deadline seems to be important. Yet, it has been hard to get that information. The RoundTable tried to get clarification from Kerr four different times via email, but without success.
Kerr’s replay on Friday, Jan. 27, said that the March deadline had not been removed but added only, “we are going to follow up again with those two individuals being that this is reparations.”
Housing is the first leg
The housing program is the first leg of the city’s historic reparations program. The grant can be spent in only three ways: mortgage assistance, home improvements or to make a down payment or pay closing costs on a home.
This initial program is only available to those whom the city calls “ancestor” applicants – Black residents who lived in the city between 1919 and 1969.
There are 133 ancestor applicants awaiting their grant. Originally, it was 138 ancestor applicants but five have died since applications closed in November 2020.
Most of the first 16 selected applicants are homeowners. Twelve have utilized the grant for home repairs, Kerr said. Two others used the grants for mortgage assistance.
Of the 14 ancestor recipients who are homeowners, officials said nine have completely used their grants. Two others are 90% completed with home improvements and three more are 40% done.
But the other two recipients, whom the city says it can’t name, aren’t homeowners. “They’re receiving state aid,” Kerr said. “And if they were to take the grant, I think they’ll become ineligible from the aid they’re receiving.”
So purchasing a home doesn’t seem to be the best option for them.
The selection process
“We don’t select people based on their ability to take or use the grant,” said Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings.
The city verifies, based on documentation provided by the applicant, if the applicant qualifies as an ancestor or a direct descendant. The discussion of how the individual is able to use the grant doesn’t begin until after an individual’s number is selected, officials said.
“We haven’t denied anyone,” Kerr said. The city offers the option for selected applicants to pass the grant to a loved one. But neither of the two ancestors have anyone to whom they can pass the grant, Kerr said.
One of the two is considering purchasing a home but hasn’t relayed that decision to the city, Kerr said.
For a complete explanation of the reparation program, here’s the first of a three-part guide that ran in August last year: Here is the second and the third part.