St. Paul officials on Wednesday reaffirmed their intent to make reparations to Black descendants of slaves, but they still have to decide how to make it happen.

Members of a reparations advisory group recommended next steps for St. Paul leaders, including the creation of a permanent city commission that would work on repairing "the damage caused by public and private systemic racism," which has resulted in racial disparities across a slew of metrics.

A report compiled by the group says the commission's first task should be to consider direct cash payments to eligible residents. It also mentions assistance with school loans and mortgage down payments as options to explore, as well as potential revisions to laws regulating real estate transactions.

"This is not a handout to communities of color," Yohuru Williams, one of the advisory group's leaders, said at Wednesday's City Council meeting. "This is restitution for historic injustice that continues to hurt our community socially, economically, politically."

Though attempts to create a federal commission to study reparations stalled in Congress, local movements have gained traction across the country in recent years. The city of Evanston, Ill., earlier this year gave $25,000 grants to 16 eligible Black residents who could use the money for a down payment on a house, mortgage payments or home improvements.

Last summer, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter was one of 10 U.S. mayors who pledged to develop and implement programs to pilot reparations.

Carter, the city's first Black mayor, said his grandfather lost half a dozen commercial properties when St. Paul's historically Black Rondo neighborhood was razed to make way for Interstate 94. Members of the advisory group, which met twice a month and hosted four public forums, said they heard from many residents who thought reparations should first be paid to those who lost homes when the freeway was built in the 1950s.

"I certainly think that is a prime example of one way in which the legacy of American slavery echoed through St. Paul and a clear instance of wrong that was committed right here in our community — that we ought to collectively have a part in righting," Carter said in an interview Wednesday.

St. Paul, which has a population of 311,000, is about 16% Black, according to U.S. census data for 2020.

Officials suggested that the council could vote as soon as this fall on the framework the advisory group laid out, paving the way for an 11-person commission to start meeting early next year.

Members would be appointed by the mayor and approved by the council. The advisory group suggested pulling members from a mix of backgrounds and giving preference to those "who demonstrate lived experience as it pertains to the work of the commission."

"I don't see a lot of obstacles in setting up the commission as has been recommended," said council President Amy Brendmoen, who said city officials are looking include to money in next year's budget to staff the commission.

The report suggests looking at the city's federal American Rescue Plan dollars, sales taxes, land sale proceeds and philanthropic contributions as potential funding sources.

"In order for there to be a sense in the community that this is a serious endeavor," Williams said, "it needs to be backed up by adequate funding and programming."