The state announced Thursday that it has granted $ 31.5 million in grants to 81 community organizations across Illinois to fund legal services for low-income residents, youth development, violence prevention and economic development in areas hardest hit by war against drugs are concerned.
The Restoration, Reinvestment, and Renewal Grants, or “R3,” are funded with a portion of government revenue from adult marijuana sales and were a key element of the 2019 bill legalizing recreational marijuana in Illinois.
“We know that too many communities, disproportionately black and brown communities in our state, have suffered excessive incarceration and decades of divestment due to the failed war on drugs,” said Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Chair of the R3 Program Board during an interview with Capitol News Illinois. “And so the R3 program was a component picked up by the members of the General Assembly, particularly under the direction of the Legislative Black Caucus, to ensure that we were focused on restorative justice.”
The Cannabis Ordinance and Tax Act came into force on January 1, 2020. Under this law, the state levies an excise tax of 10 percent on the purchase price of marijuana with THC levels of 35 percent or less. Marijuana with a higher THC content is taxed at 25 percent of the purchase price, while cannabis-infused products are taxed at 10 percent.
The law also provides that 25 percent of that revenue will be used to fund grants in communities suffering from economic divestment, violence, and the severe and disproportionate harm caused by the war on drugs, most of which are low-income Color communities acts.
Officials said the grants announced on Thursday were funded with revenue from the first month of legalized sales to date. The deadline for submitting applications for the first round of scholarships was July. Applications were submitted by the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, which was also responsible for identifying the eligible communities.
Many of these grants will help fund free legal services for low-income residents involved in civil matters, including debt collection. A report published in the Illinois Bar Journal found that up to two-thirds of all civil cases filed in Illinois outside of Chicago in 2015 involved at least one litigant who did not have a lawyer.
Prairie State Legal Services, which provides services in northern and parts of central Illinois, received four grants totaling just over $ 1 million for civil legal assistance, while Land of Lincoln Legal Services, which operates in central and south -Illinois operates three grants totaling just over $ 230,000.
Some of the grants also went to agencies that provide re-entry services for state prison inmates who are released back into the community. This included a grant of USD 228,702 to the Lutheran Social Services in Marion.
The largest single grant, announced Thursday, $ 2.5 million, was given to the Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative to provide a combination of youth development, economic development and violence prevention services in central south Chicago.
A number of cities have also received grants for similar programs, including the cities of Harrisburg, Kankakee, Madison, Rockford, and Springfield.
“What makes me really proud is not only the fact that these funds are getting into the churches, but I’m proud of the way they are getting into the churches, and that focuses on justice,” said Stratton. “We made sure we had town halls and gatherings in every community that hundreds of organizations and hundreds of people attended to make sure we were in contact, especially for some of the smaller organizations that may not have had the opportunity to do so often to get these grant funds. “
Stratton said the R3 board had not set a schedule for the distribution of the second round of grants.
“We are very excited to be launching this first round of grants,” she said.
Capitol News Illinois is a non-profit, impartial news service that covers state government and is distributed to more than 400 newspapers nationwide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.