A Reparations Task Force Meeting during the public comments section at San Diego State on Jan. 28, 2023. Photo by Ariana Drehsler

After 15 public hearings and testimony from more than 100 expert witnesses and the public, the California Reparations Task Force approved calculations on Saturday that estimate as much as hundreds of millions of dollars owed to eligible Black residents.

Describing the emotional meeting as “one of the more rowdy hearings by the task force,” Wendy Fry from CalMatters’ California Divide team reports that its recommendations don’t include a final price tag for reparations. Rather, they model ways the state could calculate how much money eligible African Americans in California have lost since the state was established to when the panel was created — from 1850 through 2020. 

Calculations vary depending on the type of racial harm experienced (for example, losses stemming from mass incarceration or housing discrimination) and how long a person has lived in California. Based on the panel’s modeling, CalMatters has created a calculator to help figure out how much a person could be owed.

“For instance, a 19-year-old who moved to the state in 2018 would be owed at least $149,000 based on the calculations,” writes Wendy. “But a 71-year-old who has lived in California all their life could be owed about $1.2 million.”

Nearly 80 percent of California’s 2.6 million Black residents would be eligible for payment, according to one of the task force’s economists. But residents shouldn’t expect cash anytime soon. The task force did not identify funding sources, and it’s ultimately up to the Legislature and governor to adopt these recommendations and decide how much individuals could get paid.

• U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat from Oakland: “Reparations are not a luxury, but a human right long overdue for millions of Americans. We are demanding that the government pay their tax.”

Besides looking into whether and how California should pay reparations for slavery, the state appointed the task force to address past racial inequities as well. It has recommended a few new policies to combat discrimination, most notably creating a centralized state agency that would provide oversight and implement the task force’s proposals. 

The task force is expected to hold a final meeting on June 29 in Sacramento, where it tentatively plans to hand its documents over to legislators. Its deadline to turn in its final recommendations to the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom is July 1.