California’s plan to grant reparations to its Black residents could cost the state $800 billion – nearly triple the state’s existing budget – economists predicted in a preliminary estimate Wednesday.
California’s reparations task force consulted five economists and policy experts to arrive at the number, and clarified that the total does not include compensations for property the group says was taken unjustly, or for the devaluation of Black-owned businesses. California’s total annual budget currently sits at roughly $300 million.
The reparations task force is meeting Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the cost.
“We’ve got to go in with an open mind and come up with some creative ways to deal with this,” California Assembly member Reggie Jones-Sawyer told The Associated Press.
Jones-Sawyer sits on the reparations committee and is one of two lawmakers tasked with convincing Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state’s other lawmakers to adopt the jaw-dropping expenditure. The task force is facing a July 1 deadline for coming up with a dollar amount for how much the state should give its Black residents.
“That’s going to be the real hurdle,” said Sen. Steven Bradford, another lawmaker who sits on the panel. “How do you compensate for hundreds of years of harm, even 150 years post-slavery?”
The panel’s findings come roughly a month after a similar reparations panel in San Francisco called for granting $5 million to each of the city’s Black residents.
The city’s African American Reparations Advisory Committee first unveiled its recommendation in January, arguing that the city owed compensation to Black residents for decades of discrimination. The committee’s chair, consultant Eric McDonnell, later clarified that the $5 million number came as a result of a “journey” rather than a “math formula.”
While slavery was never legal in San Francisco, or anywhere else in California, reparations activists say the state nevertheless imposed decades of racist policies that economically harmed Black residents and favored their white counterparts.
In addition to the $5 million payments, the San Francisco proposal also called for debt forgiveness. To be eligible for the proposed program, an applicant must be 18 years old and have identified as Black or African American on public documents for at least 10 years, among other criteria.
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