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California reparations panel to recommend ‘down payments’ to Black residents, abolishing cash bail

California’s reparations task force is preparing to recommend that the Golden State apologize and issue “down payments” to Black residents as a way to make amends for slavery and discrimination, although the state explicitly outlawed slavery when it joined the Union in 1850.  The task force, created by state legislation signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020, on Monday published more than 500 pages of documents indicating it plans to recommend California issue a formal apology for slavery and racism and consider payments of varying amounts to eligible Black Californians.  The draft report also recommends a slew of policy changes, including banning cash bail, a controversial move that some have blamed for increases in crime in areas that have adopted it.  Economists predicted in a preliminary estimate in March that California’s reparations plan could cost the state over $800 billion. The task force, which consulted five economists and policy experts to arrive at the number, clarified at the time that the total didn’t include compensation for property that the group says was taken unjustly or for the devaluation of Black-owned businesses. CALIFORNIA REPARATIONS PANEL SAYS TOTAL COST ‘LEAST IMPORTANT’ ASPECT DESPITE POTENTIAL $800B PRICE TAG California’s total annual state budget sits at roughly $300 billion. However, the task force’s latest batch of documents, which include a draft final report and agenda items to discuss at an upcoming meeting, don’t contain an overall price tag. Instead, they outline ways California could calculate how much money Black residents have lost since 1850, when the state was established, through today due to discrimination. Calculations would vary depending on how long a person has lived in California and the type of racial harm that person suffered. The final report suggests dollar amounts that have been lost for specific types of racial discrimination, indicating those amounts should be paid back to Black residents. These estimates include, for example, losing $2,352 per person per year of California residence for the over-policing of Black communities, $3,366 per person per year of residence for “discriminatory lending and zoning,” $13,619 per person per year of residence for “injustices and discrimination in health” and $77,000 per person for Black-owned business losses and devaluations. The task force also urges in its latest documents that eligible Black Californians receive cash “down payments” as soon as possible while waiting for the full amount of money loss due to racism and slavery to be calculated. NEWSOM’S CALIFORNIA PUSHES BILLIONS IN REPARATIONS PAYMENTS AS STATE FACES BUDGET DEFICIT DISASTER “Given that the process of calculating the amount of some of the losses and determining the methods and structure for issuing payments could involve a lengthy process, the task force further recommends that the legislature make a ‘down payment’ with an immediate disbursement of a meaningful amount of funds to each member of the eligible class,” the documents state, describing such payments as “substantial” and “the beginning of a conversation about redressing the economic and societal harm of historical injustices, not the end of it.” Beyond raw dollars and cents, the task force also proposes several policy changes to combat racial discrimination and for California to issue a formal apology enacted by the legislature and signed by the governor apologizing for slavery and anti-Black racism. The reparations program would be overseen by a new state agency that would determine eligibility for and distribute funds, according to the task force report. NEWSOM FALLS SILENT AFTER CALLS FOR HIM TO TAKE EXECUTIVE ACTION ON REPARATIONS A final report with the panel’s official recommendations is due by July 1 to the California Legislature, which will then decide whether to implement the measures and send them to Newsom’s desk to be signed into law. Task force leaders have said they expect the legislature to come up with actual reparations amounts. According to California Justice Department officials, the law creating the task force did not instruct the committee to identify funding sources. Critics say the reparations proposals are fiscally unmanageable for a state already facing a deficit of tens of billions of dollars and argue it doesn’t make sense to implement them when California never allowed slavery. Proponents counter that racial discrimination in the state has devastated the Black community, costing it untold amounts of money. The reparations task force is set to meet this weekend in Oakland to discuss and potentially vote on its latest recommendations.

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