CA could pay $500B to Black residents under reparations plan

Written by Danielle Chiriguayo, produced by Bennett Purser

Matthew Burgess of Sacramento, California, talks to California's Reparations Task Force as others wait in line Saturday, March 4, 2023. Credit: Lezlie Sterling/The Sacramento Bee/TNS/ABACAPRESS.COM.

California’s Reparations Task Force has approved a sweeping outline for compensating some of the state’s Black residents. It includes cash payments for descendents of enslaved people, as well as a formal apology from the state. These proposals — which add up to at least $500 billion in total — are just recommendations, however. The proposal will be sent to the California Legislature. Ultimately, state lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom will shape what any final reparations plan will look like. The proposal could serve as a model for other states, and it comes nearly two years after the nine-person committee convened in 2021.

The task force’s outline includes three broad categories: health disparities, mass incarceration and over-policing, and housing discrimination. These are the results of a so-called listening tour done by the panel, which included economists, scholars, and impacted families, says Kurtis Lee,  economics correspondent for the New York Times. 

Under the housing discrimination section, the panel recommends a $3,366 payment for every year between 1933 and 1977 that a family member lived in California. Lee says that was derived from looking at the history of redlining in the state, and how banks denied mortgages for Black individuals and families.

The task force also tackled the long-term impacts of America’s decades-long war on drugs. According to the report, descendents could receive $2,352 for each year their family member lived in California from 1971 to 2020.

But how can Californians prove that they’re the victims of racial discrimination and are eligible for these cash payments? Lee says residents will have to provide evidence of their lineage, which can be difficult if records were lost or didn’t exist to begin with. A new state agency could also be established to take these claims and process the reparations. 

Lee adds that some task members are optimistic that lawmakers will act on the recommendations, but it’s still unclear how much will be passed. That’s due in part to the uncertain economic future facing California.

“When it passed this measure in 2020, the state was facing a surplus. Now, we're in a budget deficit, and there's concerns of a recession. So there's a lot of questions remaining about how will reparations be funded [and] what it would look like.”