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Compensation for black Californians could reach $800 billion

San Francisco — It could cost California more than $800 billion to compensate black residents for generations of overpolicing, disproportionate imprisonment and housing discrimination, economists told a state panel examining compensation.

The video in the player above is from a previous report.

The initial estimate is more than 2.5 times California’s $300 billion annual budget, and it doesn’t include the $1 million recommended per older black resident for health disparities that shortened their life spans. The figure also does not account for compensating people for property unfairly appropriated by the government or undervaluing black businesses, two other harms the task force says the state has inflicted.

The black population may not receive cash payments anytime soon, if ever, because the state may never adopt the economists’ accounts. The compensation team is due to discuss the numbers Wednesday and can vote to approve the proposals or come up with its own numbers. The suggested figure comes from an advisory team of five economists and policy experts.

“We have to keep an open mind and come up with some creative ways to approach this,” said Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, one of two lawmakers on the task force responsible for garnering support from state and government lawmakers. . Gavin Newsom before any compensation becomes a reality.

In an interview before the meeting, Jones-Sawyer said he needed to consult budget analysts, other lawmakers and the governor’s office before deciding whether or not a schedule of payments is possible.

Estimates of disproportionate policing and incarceration and housing discrimination are not new. The figures emerged in a presentation in September in which the advisory team sought guidance on using a national or California-specific model for calculating damages.

But now the task force must settle cash as it approaches its July 1 deadline to recommend to lawmakers how California can atone for its role in perpetuating the racist systems that continue to undermine black people.

For those who support reparations, the staggering $800 billion that economists propose underscores the long-term damage suffered by black Americans, even in a nation that never officially endorsed slavery. Critics base their opposition in part on the fact that California was never a slave state and say that current taxpayers should not be liable for damages related to events that arose hundreds of years ago.

video: The California Compensation Task Force focuses on key issues related to potential compensation

The task force’s recommendations are just the beginning because ultimate authority rests with the State House, Senate, and Governor.

“That’s going to be the real hurdle,” said Senator Stephen Bradford, one of the committee members. “How do you make up for hundreds of years of harm, even 150 years after slavery?”

Financial compensation is just one part of the package being considered. Other proposals include paying incarcerated prisoners market value for their work, creating free health centers and planting more trees in black communities, banning cash bail and adopting the K-12 Black Studies curriculum.

Newsom signed into law in 2020 to create a Reparations Task Force after nationwide protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police. While federal initiatives faltered, cities, counties, and other institutions stepped in.

A San Francisco advisory panel recommended a payment of $5 million, plus a guaranteed income of at least $97,000 and personal debt forgiveness for eligible individuals. The moderators expressed general support, but stopped short of endorsing specific proposals. They will take up the issue later this year.

The statewide estimate includes $246 billion to compensate eligible Black Californians whose neighborhoods were subjected to aggressive surveillance and persecution of Black people in the “War on Drugs” from 1970 to 2020. That would translate to roughly $125,000 for each eligible person.

The numbers are approximate, based on modeling and population estimates. Economists also included $569 billion to compensate for the discriminatory practice of redlining home loans. This compensation would amount to about $223,000 for each eligible resident who lived in California from 1933 to 1977. The total is a cap and it is assumed that all 2.5 million people who identify as Black in California would be eligible.

Redlining officially began in the 1930s when the federal government began subsidizing mortgages to support home purchases, but excluded predominantly black neighborhoods by marking them as red on indoor maps. The racial divide in home ownership persists to this day, and black-owned homes are often underestimated. Redlining officially ended in 1977, but the practice has continued.

Financial compensation will be available to people who meet residency and other requirements. They must also be descendants of enslaved and freed blacks in the United States as of the 19th century, which excludes black immigrants.

In their report, the advisors suggest the government task force is “erring on the side of generosity” and considering a down payment with more money to come as more evidence becomes available.

“The public should be informed that the big down payment is the beginning, not the end, of a debate about historical grievances,” they said.

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