Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle Unveils Inaugural Cook County Equity Fund Report to Highlight Equity Investments in Historically Disinvested Communities

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Highlights include accounting, financial and legislative reporting commitments for the Cook County Equity Fund and policy recommendations from the Cook County Equity Fund Taskforce

[COOK COUNTY, IL] – Created to address historic and continued disinvestment and inequities that have negatively impacted Black, Latine and other marginalized residents, today, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle unveiled the County’s first Cook County Equity Fund Report.

Under the guidance of nearly 90 community partners, this historic Cook County document highlights the Equity Fund’s goals, vision and purpose, outlines and memorializes the County’s financial equity commitments, and includes the Cook County Equity Fund Taskforce’s recommendations on actions Cook County government should take to address structural barriers that prevent the meaningful advancement of equity across Cook County.

The Cook County Equity Fund was established with a vision to create safe, healthy, and thriving communities in Cook County by reimagining and transforming systems around justice, public safety, health, housing, economic opportunity, community development, and social services to benefit Black and brown communities and proactively invest resources in solutions and supports to achieve equitable outcomes.

“The creation of the Cook County Equity Fund and Cook County Equity Fund Taskforce demonstrate that equity is not just an aspirational goal—we are funding it, we are putting it into action, and we are committed to working with our community partners to make these efforts inclusive, sustainable, responsive, and impactful,” President Preckwinkle said. “With our first Equity Fund Report, the importance and alignment of the Taskforce with our Policy Roadmap and comprehensive American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Spending Plan planning are clear.”

In alignment with the Cook County Policy Roadmap: Five-year Strategic Plan for the Offices Under the President, the Office of the President created the Cook County Equity Fund and seeded it with an initial allocation of $40 million in Cook County’s Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) Budget. In the County’s FY22 Budget, an additional $10 million was allocated to the fund for a total balance of $50 million. This total is included in the over $100 million in equity-aligned investments Cook County has committed to since FY21 and is in line with the Cook County Budget for Black Lives stewarded by Commissioner Brandon Johnson and passed by the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

“When we say ‘Black Lives Matter’, we are calling on government to provide public accommodations in Black communities that have been denied resources for generations,” Commissioner Brandon Johnson said. "The investments in the Equity Fund Report align with the Budget for Black Lives movement to achieve public safety through community resources rather than criminalization and incarceration.”

The Office of the President also established the Equity Fund Taskforce in an effort to incorporate voices and viewpoints beyond Cook County government in determining how to structure and allocate these resources and guide Equity Fund spending principles. This incorporation of service providers, advocates and residents in resource allocation represents a fundamental shift in how Cook County has historically operated its grantmaking process. The Taskforce is composed of 89 members representing dozens of organizations and agencies from across Cook County.

"The Chicago Jobs Council is a systems-change organization that does our work by building capacity throughout the field of workforce development and through advocacy and policy,” said  Lisa Bly-Jones, Ed.D., Chief Executive Officer of CJC. “CJC recognizes that systemic, institutional and individual racism creates disparities in the way people of color fare in the labor market.  We Advocate for policies that reduce racial disparities in employment to improve economic outcomes for marginalized job seekers. Being new in my role as CEO of CJC, I was thrilled to participate in the efforts related to the Equity Fund. It's been extremely rewarding to truly collaborate with community facing organizations and develop priorities that are being supported by the county with these historic investments in equity."  

Based on the Cook County Equity Fund Taskforce’s discussions and the Preckwinkle administration’s policy priorities, the Cook County Equity Fund Taskforce has outlined the following recommendations in alignment with the Cook County Policy Roadmap subgroups i.e. Healthy Communities (health and wellness); Vital Communities (economic and community development); Safe and Thriving Communities (criminal justice and violence reduction); Sustainable Communities (environmental justice and sustainability); Smart Communities (public infrastructure); and Open Communities (operational excellence and good governance).

The Offices Under the President will begin exploring the feasibility of the above Cook County Equity Fund Taskforce recommendations, in close partnership with the Cook County Equity Fund Taskforce who will continue to meet bimonthly.

A comprehensive List of the Taskforce recommendations are below, and a copy of the full Cook County Equity Fund Report can be found here.

For more information on the Cook County Equity Fund Taskforce visit: www.cookcountyil.gov/service/racial-equity

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List of Cook County Equity Fund Taskforce Recommendations:

Healthy Communities

  • Adopt a Health Equity in All Policies (HEiAP) approach in policymaking to ensure Cook County government factors health considerations into its implementation of policies and programs and identifies gaps to improve health outcomes for all residents and communities.
  • Create a behavioral health authority to coordinate a comprehensive, accessible, and culturally responsive continuum of behavioral health services for suburban Cook County, including preventative services, that recognizes the intersections between health, housing, and justice involvement.
  • Develop a countywide Community Information Exchange System to holistically address social drivers of health outcomes, deliver whole person care, and better inform and drive more equitable allocation of resources to residents across Cook County.

Vital Communities

  • Support collaborative efforts to reform Cook County’s property assessment and taxation system to promote equity and fairness and reduce the racial wealth gap.
  • Increase Cook County’s capacity to enforce Cook County’s fair housing laws to reduce unlawful housing discrimination and affirmatively further fair housing.
  • Build a more resilient housing and shelter system to provide dignified and reliable support to people experiencing homelessness in suburban Cook County, with the goal of achieving functional zero homelessness.
  • Increase Cook County resources to create new units of affordable housing across Cook County to promote housing stability and affordability.
  • Provide direct financial assistance to residents to sustain and preserve homeownership to address the racial wealth gap and prevent continued displacement.
  • Continue championing government's role in launching programs and policies that support residents’ economic security and increase economic mobility.
  • Align Cook County’s workforce investments intentionally and strategically to support high quality jobs that promote residents’ economic mobility and equity.
  • Develop the small business and entrepreneurship ecosystem, especially for Black and Latine residents, to reduce the racial wealth gap.
  • Pursue place-based investment through a community-centered approach to support a deeper and more sustainable commitment to implementing locally-desired community and economic development.
  • Develop innovative programs to assist communities and families that have been hard-hit by predatory lending.
  • Strengthen and enforce Cook County’s worker protection laws to ensure all workers receive fair compensation and protection from violations.

Safe and Thriving Communities

  • Improve interagency data-sharing and public access to deidentified and disaggregated criminal legal system data to increase transparency and usefulness, with specific attention on data that identifies racial and ethnic disparities and operational challenges that contribute to barriers and collateral consequences for those impacted by the criminal legal system.
  • Develop a comprehensive and coordinated countywide re-entry plan that works to support residents returning to their communities from detention, jail, and prison by removing structural barriers to housing, economic security, and opportunity, including the negative impacts of criminal and juvenile records.
  • Support community-informed alternatives to policing in suburban Cook County to minimize harmful interactions between police and residents, especially Black residents, and promote community safety.

Smart Communities

  • Increase access to and availability and affordability of public transportation to connect communities and ensure transit equity.
  • Increase digital connectivity and access to broadband infrastructure and digital devices for residents, particularly in communities of color.

Sustainable Communities

  • Invest in climate-resilient infrastructure to address decades of disinvestment in Black and Latine communities.
  • Establish a Cook County Environmental Justice Policy to incorporate environmental and equity impacts in policy and program decision-making.
  • Support actions that improve both public health and environmental health for the overall well-being of residents, particularly in Black, Latine, and low-income communities.

Open Communities

  • Develop a comprehensive equity-centered grantmaking strategy to promote equitable access to resources and increase capacity to deliver services in partnership with smaller, grassroots, emerging, and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color-led organizations anchored in marginalized communities.
  • Establish flexible, accessible, and empowering pathways for residents of historically disinvested or marginalized communities to meaningfully participate in developing and implementing County policies and programs.
  • Implement countywide best practices to measure the impact of policies and programs on immigrant and refugee communities to ensure Cook County’s work to reduce racial and ethnic inequities is inclusive and actively works to protect immigrants and refugees.

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