evanston considers how to spend $43M in rescue funds

November 2, 2021 | ECF Press Release

The Evanston Community Foundation (ECF) is leading the effort to convene the community and get their insight into how the distribution of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds should be allocated in Evanston. The funds give the City of Evanston an extremely rare opportunity to use $43 million in unrestricted federal funding to improve our community.

community effort

“We are calling on the City of Evanston, and our community partners, to use a process that is community-informed, and planned and implemented in a true partnership between government and the Evanston community,” said Sol Anderson, President and CEO, ECF. “The objective of gathering resident feedback is to better envision how Evanston will have changed for the better when every dollar is spent. The goal is to ensure meaningful change in Evanston.

Together with the City of Evanston staff, Evanston Cradle to Career, Northwestern University’s Office of Neighborhood and Community Relations, Evanston Early Childhood Council, Girls Play Sports, and Evanston Latinos, the partnership aims to ensure broad and diverse community representation. This local coalition has organized and led four resident townhalls, seven roundtables focused on key issues, an early childhood sector meeting, and a roundtable and survey of high school youth. More than 350 Evanston residents attended the townhalls, including youth residents. Additionally, 169 representatives from 62 locally-based organizations participated in the roundtables, and 58 Evanston Township High School (ETHS) students completed the survey. 

“These federal dollars represent an unprecedented opportunity to meet local response needs while also making transformative investments to support broad-based, equitable growth in every corner of Evanston,” said Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss. “ECF has exemplified partnership in this community-led approach to ensure we are centering community voice and the City is grateful for their leadership.”

Two key messages emerged from the combined community feedback. One, it is critical to ensure a transparent process to determine the allocation of funds. Two, this is an ideal opportunity for a cross-sector, creative approach to community challenges. 

“Evanston nonprofits were central in Evanston’s extraordinary COVID relief efforts in Evanston,” Anderson said. “They should be centered as well in the cross-sector solutions that Evanston needs to recover and rebuild, working in partnership with the City of Evanston.”

Community participants were clear on what criteria and structure should be part of project selection with equity, sustainability, community involvement, and collaboration at the forefront. Additionally, projects should demonstrate positive impact on employment and the City’s economy, and have measurable results while balancing need, capital expenditure, and systems change. Four foundational and cross-sector themes for the use of ARPA funds include housing, childcare, investment in Black and Latino communities, and mental health and trauma. 

“I gained much more insight and inspiration in the town hall than I had expected,” said Lily Aaron, ETHS student.  “So often I feel the demands of youth are cast off as too radical -- especially during the discussion over something as crucial as ARPA.  But the youth town hall restored my hope! From discussion regarding plans to build an elementary school in the Fifth Ward, to the implementation of climate curriculum for both school districts, to fostering a sort of "reverse-mentorship program" between youth and adults. The town hall shows that, when given the space to share our perspectives, we (the youth!) are more than capable of tackling problems and dreaming up solutions in ways that can and will lead to legitimate change.”

ECF partnered with area consultants to synthesize and present the feedback from the townhalls, survey, and community meetings. Learn more about the full Community Assessment Report, also available in Spanish. 

“Evanston is a city that aspires to innovation, equity, and inclusion. We urge that that we use these values to drive our ARPA process by giving our extraordinarily talented and activist community a true seat at the table,” said Anderson. “The outcome will be richer if we do so.”

about the foundation

Founded in 1986, the Evanston Community Foundation (ECF) helps Evanston thrive now and forever as a vibrant, equitable and inclusive Evanston, where every member of the community can thrive. Through grants, training, and making connections, ECF enables Evanston nonprofits and community organizations to deliver their mission more effectively. ECF leverages the generosity of its donors, so their charitable giving can have the greatest impact on the community. ECF is invested in Evanston now, forever and for everyone.