The California Reparations Task Force announced on Wednesday they would not be giving a recommended amount for reparations, saying instead that politicians should decide that amount if and when reparations legislation goes to the state legislature.
Since the Task Force was first put together in late 2020 following Gov. Gavin Newsom signing AB 3121 by then-assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), they have looked for what possible reparations, monetary or otherwise, to recommend to give to African-Americans living in California for discriminatory practices and slavery of the past, despite that California was never a slave state. While initially encompassing all people of African descent, the group of those qualified to receive reparations was significantly narrowed in March 2022 when the task force voted to limit the possible reparations only to those who are an African American descendant of an enslaved person or free Black person living in the US prior to the end of the 19th century.
In June 2022 the Task Force’s first report came out, giving a recommendation of reparations, likely in the form of home buying assistance, free college tuition, and business grants. However, one of the many criticisms against the report was that no estimated monetary figure was attached, with many worried about how high it could be. In early December, an estimate of $569 billion was provided by the state, leading to uproar and the threat of lawsuits if the number holds. Later that month, compensation compensation and eligibility requirements were discussed.
With the $569 billion figure being essentially laughed out of the room, the Task Force has looked for a possible figure in the past several months. Another estimate released this week by economists and policy officials for a total of $800 billion dollars, or roughly 2 and a half times the current state budget, met a similar reaction of disbelief, and pressured the Task Force even further to take a stand.
However, rather than give a recommended amount on Wednesday, despite monetary recommendations being a major part of the proposal, the Task Force said that the final cost will be solely in the hands of politicians.
“The task force is pretty much done regarding the compensation component. Our task was to create a methodology for calculation for various forms of compensation that correspond with our findings,” said Task Force Chairwoman Kamilah Moore on Wednesday. “It’s up to the state Legislature to ascribe a restitution amount based on the methodology economists recommended.”
Task Force refuses to give proposed reparations amount
However, the announcement that no amount will be recommended has worried many, worsening the chances for any passable reparations bill to be formed in the coming years.
“The Task Force has really done this in,” legal adviser Richard Weaver told the Globe Wednesday. “I mean, a big part of their recommendation will be payments on lost housing loans due to redlining. Skipping over all the legal issues there, not many black people in California were alive when they were on the books, yet they go to everyone. More money going to aggressive policing can be easily dismissed in court.”
“If you really want to sell such a high amount and not have legal problems, you need it to make fiscal sense and be legally sound. A big thing would be to give small business breaks or loans to African Americans. This way they get compensated, while at the same time, California immediately starts getting some of that money back through loans. Same with paying inmates more for work and giving them more accredited education opportunities for college or for a trade. This way, the money goes right back into communities and they have a stronger second chance after prison.”
“Giving money right off the bat or giving big housing loans, well, they need to prove how it benefits people, and again, they need to make it legally sound. I know I keep saying this, but if any kind of reparation legislation is passed, and that is a big if, it will be dragged through the courts for years and will probably not see the light of day. Reparations are, on average, a very unpopular policy. The fact that the Task Force isn’t even trying to give a figure now is kind of showing that now.”
The Task Force is due to give their final findings on July 1st.
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