In September 2020, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law establishing a group tasked with studying and making recommendations on reparations for slavery to the state’s Black community.
Reparations are generally understood as a way to address injustices such as slavery and racism. At the national level, the NAACP advocates for an apology, financial payment and social service benefits, among other forms of reparations.
Now, several years after the California task force’s creation, people on social media are claiming that the state recently approved $1.2 million in reparations payments for each of its Black residents.
Terrera also texted VERIFY to ask if Black residents in California are receiving reparations payments.
Is California currently sending $1.2 million in reparations payments to each of its Black residents?
No, California is not currently sending $1.2 million in reparations payments to each of its Black residents.
The state task force has proposed sending cash payments to residents, some of whom could potentially receive more than $1 million. But it’s up to the state legislature to propose and approve a bill before sending it to the governor to sign into law.
WHAT WE FOUND
California’s Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans voted on May 6 to approve proposals in a final report on how to compensate and apologize to Black residents for harms stemming from discriminatory state policies. Those proposals do include sending reparations payments to Black residents.
But California is not currently sending $1.2 million reparations payments to each of its Black residents, as the social media posts imply.
The task force’s role is to “develop recommendations for future legislative action,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office says on its website. Any reparations, including monetary compensation, would need to be proposed and approved by state lawmakers before they are signed into law by Gov. Newsom.
California Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-District 59), who is on the task force, said in a statement that members of the state legislature would still need to present a reparations bill based on the task force’s final report. If such a bill is passed, Newsom could then sign it into law.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office also said social media posts about Black residents in the state currently receiving monetary reparations are “sharing false and misleading information.”
“There is no such process in place with the Department of Justice or any other state agency,” Bonta’s office says on its website. “Under AB 3121, any reparations program will need to be enacted by the Legislature and approved by the Governor.”
The task force has not yet sent its final report to state lawmakers, Newsom said in a statement provided to VERIFY, but it is expected to do so before July 1, 2023.
What the task force recommended
In one section of its final report, the task force discusses two different types of monetary reparations.
First, it is recommending that the state legislature allow Black residents to submit claims, and receive compensation or restitution, for specific instances of harm inflicted upon them or their family members. The task force also recommends the creation of a new state agency charged with processing these claims and providing payments.
The second recommended category of reparations would apply more broadly to eligible Black residents in the state and would not require anyone to “provide evidence documenting their harm.”
In its proposal, the task force recommends that the same state agency tasked with processing claims should be responsible for establishing residents’ eligibility and making direct payments to those who are eligible.
Though it’s not clear how reparations payments would be determined if the recommendations are implemented, the task force’s proposals include the following estimated losses from discriminatory practices in the state:
- For health harms: $13,619 for each year of residency in California; or $966,921 total for someone who lives to 71 years old, which is the average life expectancy of Black residents in the state.
- For mass incarceration and over-policing: $2,352 for each year of residency from 1971 to 2020, or $115,260 per person.
- For housing inequities: One estimate based on homeownership wealth gaps between white and Black residents in the state calculates losses at $145,847 per person. The other method based on discriminatory “redlining” practices estimates losses of up to $148,099, or $3,366 for each year as a California resident between 1933 and 1977.
- For devaluation of Black-owned businesses: $77,000 per Black resident in California.
The $1.2 million figure in the social media posts appears to come from estimates reported by some news outlets, such as the New York Times. The newspaper reported that, in theory, a lifelong California resident who is 71 years old could be eligible for roughly $1.2 million in total compensation under the task force’s proposals.
Though Newsom did not comment on whether he supports the task force’s recommendations, he said “dealing with the legacy of slavery is about much more than cash payments.”
The task force’s proposals go beyond monetary reparations. It is also calling on the state to enact various policy changes, and to apologize for racism and slavery.