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For Chicagoans with low incomes, a parking ticket can be so much more than an annoyance. It can be a penalty that forces gut wrenching decisions (pay the ticket or pay your rent?) or even snowballs into crippling debt.

COFI (Community Organizing and Family Issues) is a 25-year-old grassroots organization that helps low-income parents lead change in their communities. A grant from the Trust supported COFI parents’ participation in the Chicago Fines, Fees & Access Collaborative—a City-led effort to make Chicago’s municipal fines and fees less punishing for low-income individuals and families.

Having COFI parents at the table ensured the Collaborative was informed by those most impacted by the City’s policies. As a result of their recommendations, the City passed major reforms to some of the most problematic fines and fees, ensuring low-income communities and communities of color no longer get hit hardest.

The initiative shows how taking collective action can lead to meaningful policy change that makes a positive impact on people’s daily lives.