The reparations task force has yet to make key decisions on how California will compensate black residents for slavery, discrimination

Nearly two years into California’s reparations task force, the group has yet to make key decisions that will be central to the final report recommending how the state apologizes and compensates Black residents for of the harms caused by slavery and discrimination.

A vote that may have been scheduled this weekend on requirements for who is eligible for payments and other remedies has been delayed by the absence of one of the committee’s nine members. But the group could vote Saturday on whether lawmakers should create an agency to implement a recovery program.

Lawmakers passed legislation in 2020 that created the task force to examine how the legacy of slavery harmed African Americans long after it was eradicated through education, criminal justice and other disparities. The legislation directs the task force to study reparations proposals “with special consideration for” descendants of enslaved Blacks living in California and is not intended to create a program to replace one from the federal government.

The work of the task force has gained widespread attention, a result of being the first of its kind in the country. But others used the group’s most recent two-day meeting in Sacramento to warn that not enough Black Californians know enough about its work.

A resident said that the task force’s groundbreaking interim 500-page report, released last year, should be used in libraries and schools. But others said that the task force and its communications team are not the only ones to publicize their work.

“This room should be filled with media, and not because Black people are pariahs,” Los Angeles attorney Cheryce Cryer said Saturday. “We’re at the bottom of the totem pole.”

The two-day gathering in Sacramento, the state capital, comes as the group nears a July 1 deadline to release a report to lawmakers. The document will represent a milestone in the growing push for reparations efforts in various parts of the country. It was a movement that drew support from many African Americans, but also promoted that including Japanese Americans fought for families to receive compensation from the federal government after residents were placed in internment camps during World War II.

Sacramento resident Tariq Alami, who has followed the task force’s work since its early stages, said it was clear the government should have passed reparations for Black Americans a long time ago.

“It doesn’t take a genius to see that there are disparities in society as a result of what we encounter as Black people,” Alami said.

Dozens of advocates and residents from across the state at the California Environmental Protection Agency building to provide public comments Friday and Saturday that ranged from detailing family histories that acquired properties from ancestors to calling on federal lawmakers to follow California’s lead.

After the task force releases its final report, the fate of its recommendations will rest with state lawmakers, two of whom are members of the task force — Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Sen. Steven Bradford of the state, both Democrats representing parts of Los Angeles County. Lawmakers will also decide where the funding for any reparations law will come from.

The task force spent several meetings discussing what time frames could be relied upon for reparations for the five damages that economists sought to help quantify the extent of anti-Black discriminatory policies. Californians.

Economists said on Friday that some of the data and information they still need to have more estimates to include figures on the gap between what the government pays Black residents for the property it acquires and the actual value of that property.

The task force previously proposed the following time frames for five harms, starting when the state was established or when certain discriminatory policies were implemented: 1933 to 1977 for housing discrimination and homelessness, 1970 to 2020 for excessive policing and mass incarceration, 1850 to 2020 for unfair property acquisition, 1900 to 2020 for health damage, and 1850 to 2020 for declining value of businesses owned in Black.

Task force member Monica Montgomery Steppe expressed concerns Friday about making 1977 the end year for housing discrimination and homelessness, as Black residents make up the about a third of Californians experiencing homelessness. That year was proposed based on the passage of the Community Reinvestment Act, a federal law that encouraged lending to low- and middle-income neighborhoods.

Economists say using that year helps back up their estimates for the effects of government-sponsored redlining when predominantly Black neighborhoods are often categorized as “dangerous.”

“There are more reasons why people sleep on the street,” Steppe said.

The task force voted last year to limit reparations to descendants of enslaved or free Blacks who lived in the United States in the 19th century. Members have yet to vote on whether compensation should be limited to California residents or include people who live in the state and intend to stay but are displaced.

Elsewhere in the country, reparations proposals for African Americans have had mixed results. A bill that would allow the federal government to study reparations has not come close to a vote in Congress since it was first introduced in 1989.

Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, made national headlines in 2021 as the first city to offer reparations to Black residents in the form of housing grants. But few benefited from the program, the Washington Post reported reported.

In December, the African American Reparations Advisory Committee in San Francisco released a draft report proposes a $5 million payment for each eligible person. The city’s Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on the committee’s final recommendation.

In New York, state lawmakers reinstated a bill earlier this year to create a commission to study reparations for African Americans.

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