CHICAGO (June 10, 2021) – During its May 2021 meeting, Polk Bros. Foundation Board of Directors approved $1.325 million in grants from the foundation’s increased FY21 grantmaking focused on helping Chicago recover from the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that addresses persistent and significant racial inequities. The Board also approved $7.055 million in the foundation’s ongoing grantmaking to help build strong communities and families, increase access to quality education and the arts, improve health, and strengthen organizations and the sectors in which they work.
“These new grants showcase some promising efforts to increase housing stability in Chicago, to reimagine community safety, to address inequity in our schools, to increase community wealth and to make sure everyone has access to urgently-needed mental health and trauma services,” said Polk Bros. Foundation CEO Gillian Darlow. “Community leaders are calling for these types of investments as critical components to help communities heal, and approaches like these can lead the way toward more racially equitable systems.”
This is the third round of grants made from the foundation’s significantly increased grantmaking announced in August 2020. The Board approved up to $8.5 million in additional grantmaking this fiscal year, which increased the foundation’s payout rate to more than 9% and brought the anticipated total grant spending this fiscal year to $33.5 million.
The foundation’s Board approves Equitable Recovery grants along with the foundation’s ongoing grantmaking during each of this year’s quarterly Board meetings. The foundation announced its first $2.05 million in Equitable Recovery grants in November, and the second round totaling $2.155 million in grants in March. To date this fiscal year, the Foundation has awarded $5.53 million from its increased FY21 Equitable Recovery grantmaking and $17.08 million in total regular grantmaking. The next round of Equitable Recovery grantmaking is expected to be approved in August 2021.
“As we’ve worked on identifying efforts to support with the Foundation’s increased Equitable Recovery grantmaking, we have been reflecting quite a bit – individually and collectively – about what more we can do to move Chicago closer to a time when the distribution of resources, opportunities, and burdens is not determined or predictable by race,” said Darlow. “This is also a conversation happening in every meeting, big or small, with our philanthropy peers. This is a significant moment of self-reflection and action for philanthropy.”
“Census Bureau data from 1980 to 2015 indicated that neighborhood racial composition was a stronger determinant of appraised values in 2015 than it was in 1980, and that homeowners in white neighborhoods gained wealth at twice the rate of homeowners in Black and Latinx neighborhoods, primarily due to contemporary home appraisal practices. This consistent devaluing, coupled with discriminatory lending practices, contribute to the persistent widening racial wealth gap that we experience today. The Neighborhood Housing Services Housing Policy Task Force has mobilized an impressive coalition of sector experts and communities with lived expertise who are working to right the generational wrongs of redlining and dramatically increase the wealth-building opportunities that are possible through homeownership.”
Channing R. N. Lenert, Program Officer, and Deborah Bennett, Senior Program Officer, Polk Bros. Foundation
“The experience of homelessness is traumatizing and often has negative impacts on children’s development, including their ability to do well in school. While homelessness is always a public health crisis, the pandemic has compounded this trauma and its impacts on communities which already faced inequities. Many students and their families live doubled-up and therefore do not qualify for federally-funded permanent housing through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Families in Transition evidence may help make the case to expand local- and state-funded housing options to include support for these families, too.”
Debbie Reznick, Senior Program Officer, and Divya Mohan Little, Program Officer, Polk Bros. Foundation
“Ample research has shown that stable housing is a key social determinant of health. The lack of stable housing negatively affects mental and physical health, employment, access to healthcare, and the academic progress of children and youth, all critical issues already impacting Austin and Roseland residents. LCBH’s legal services and data-gathering expertise combined with Communities United’s organizing skills will help reach renters who need legal information, advice, and representation. The number of families that may face housing instability is devastating and this effort is one strategy that can help mitigate individual harm and contribute to broader housing stability policy efforts.”
Debbie Reznick, Senior Program Officer, Polk Bros. Foundation
“The events of 2020 have underscored the fact that racism is the deepest structural problem facing this country. The current eviction moratoria only delay a level of displacement and suffering that could dwarf the last recession and further codify racial inequity in Chicago for decades to come. One of the greatest strengths of the Racial Equity Rapid Response Team approach is that it pairs the resources and connections of government with the deep on-the-ground relationships of community-based organizations. As it pursues immediate response efforts, the RERRT will simultaneously work to strengthen the city’s overall eviction prevention system. This work requires a balance of trust, community voice, and robust resources.”
Debbie Reznick, Senior Program Officer, Polk Bros. Foundation
“Incarceration and recidivism hurt individuals, families, and communities. The harms of trauma, victimization, and heavy justice system presence tend to cluster in communities experiencing concentrated poverty and multiple forms of disinvestment. These dynamics are particularly present in predominantly Black and Latinx communities. Involvement with the criminal justice system creates real barriers for individuals and families to connect with employment, housing, and opportunity, perpetuating poverty in many communities that have historically received some of the fewest resources. A potential solution to the economic precarity experienced by formerly-incarcerated people is a guaranteed basic income, which can provide a financial floor for stability. The short-term financial stability this pilot will provide will ease reintegration and enable individuals to weather the challenges of re-entry.”
Deborah Bennett, Senior Program Officer, Polk Bros. Foundation
“The goal of this work is to create public safety approaches and alternatives to incarceration that do not involve systems that further harm communities of color. These initiatives lift up the power of community relationships and assets as key to building ways to share resources, resolve conflicts, and reimagine public safety. These informal networks exist in Black, immigrant, and marginalized communities, where there has long been a wariness of calling police to respond to crises or violence or even for assistance. However, the necessary infrastructure and resources have not yet been invested in to allow for community-based, unarmed, and non-punitive approaches to conflict to be scaled and sustained.”
Deborah Bennett, Senior Program Officer, and Kim Nguyen, Program Assistant, Polk Bros. Foundation
“Schools will return to in-person instruction this fall, and taking advantage of planning time this summer is paramount. Leading Educators has a strong national reputation for helping teachers understand learning standards and rigorously evaluate their work to make it stronger. By helping create a more intentional and impactful approach to accelerating learning in math, Leading Educators will not only help teachers address immediate needs, but also increase the quality of a school’s faculty going forward.”
Suzanne Doornbos Kerbow, Program Director for Education, Polk Bros. Foundation
“Sinai Health System has long served people who have been disenfranchised from the healthcare system, who cannot pay for services, and who most need treatment. With Ogden Commons, Sinai Health System brings together corporate, philanthropic, public sector, and local support to meet the growing and complex needs of Chicago’s west side community residents, so all Chicagoans have equitable access to healthy lives and economic well-being. Sinai takes its role in the community it serves seriously. In addition to improving health outcomes of residents and increasing access to specialty services, it will build a strong workforce embedded in and composed of local community members.”
Divya Mohan Little, Program Officer, Polk Bros. Foundation
Learn More about our Increased FY21 Equitable Recovery Grantmaking