Members of Evanston’s Human Services Committee voted unanimously this week to establish a program that would let undocumented residents qualify for emergency grants of up to $1,500.

The undocumented are not eligible for the state-mandated general assistance and emergency assistance programs operated by the city because of their lack of legal status.

Health and Services Director Ike Ogbo told aldermen on the committee that the plan is to fund the new Community Member Relief Fund primarily through philanthropic donations — modeling it on the emergency food pantry established this spring in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has raised more than $120,000.

He said other communities, from Wheeling, Illinois to Redwood City, California have adopted similar programs.

He added that the city has determined that But he said the city has determined that it can use $25,000 in federal funds received for emergency services during the pandemic as a budget to launch the program while a donation program gets underway.

A staff memo says applicants would have to meet eligibility requirements similar to ones for the existing emergency assistance program, other than not being disqualified by their undocumented status.

Rebeca Mendoza, president of Evanston Latinos told the committee there’s been a historic underinvestment in the Hispanic Community that has led to a general sense of distrust and that the new program would help break down those barriers.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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