Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced recently the launch of a more than 50-member taskforce to advise her administration on strategic investments from the new Cook County Equity Fund, which addresses historical disparities and disinvestment in Black and Latinx communities.
The Cook County Equity Fund was established by President Preckwinkle in the County budget approved last November with an initial investment of nearly $100 million. Combined with other equity-focused initiatives, the County will invest roughly $120 million in in FY21 and FY22. She also created the Cook County Equity Fund Taskforce, whose members were announced today as they met (virtually) for the first time. The Equity Fund Taskforce serves in an advisory capacity, providing input to the administration on the Fund’s strategic investments in communities across the county
“Cook County acknowledges that government has contributed to the marginalization of and disinvestment in Black and Latinx communities,” Preckwinkle said. “We know these impacts accumulate over time and create generational poverty and the racial wealth gap. We believe the new Cook County Equity Fund is yet another important step Cook County is taking in addressing these disparities.”
The Equity Fund is the next step in the criminal justice reform strategy of the President and the County. The strategy includes continuing to reduce the population of Cook County Jail while safeguarding public safety; reducing recidivism; tackling gun violence; and eliminating the use of cash bail, which disproportionately penalizes the indigent and people of color – all with the aim of providing fair and equitable access to justice.
With input from the Equity Fund Taskforce, the Equity Fund will seek to reimagine safety and realign systems that impact residents in most need. Targeting investments in mental health and other supportive services, increasing access to jobs, capital and critical social services, and helping build wealth through business and home ownership are examples of meaningful ways to achieve more equitable outcomes and support communities where residents can live, learn, play, grow and thrive.
The Cook County Equity Fund Taskforce includes representatives from other Cook County agencies, advocates, community-based organizations, and philanthropic, civic, and academic institutions.
The Taskforce will also coordinate a broad community engagement plan to ensure that members of the public can participate in advancing the mission of the Equity Fund. The Equity Fund’s work will be guided by the mission, vision, values, and priorities outlined in the Cook County Policy Roadmap: Five-Year Strategic Plan for Offices Under the President.
The Equity Fund Taskforce will meet again on May 20 and then twice a month for the subsequent five months to co-create and finalize the Equity Fund framework and provide input to inform recommendations for the 2022 fiscal year budget and beyond. After October 2021, the Taskforce will continue meeting monthly as the work develops over time.
“I want to thank the more than 50 organizations that have agreed to serve on the Equity Fund Taskforce and offer their time and expertise for this important work,” Preckwinkle said. “In this moment we have an opportunity to address the social and equity impacts of our current criminal justice, public safety, and social service systems – and with the Equity Fund and our Taskforce, we fully intend to do so.”