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Black Reparations On The Way? One City May Offer $5 Million Per Person

A committee in San Francisco could move forward on a reparations proposal that would include a one-time lump-sum payment of $5 million for eligible Black Americans. The move would make San Francisco the first major U.S. city to fund reparations.

The San Francisco African American Reparations Advisory Committee will meet Tuesday to take action on the more than 100 recommendations it made in its December draft proposal. The $5 million-per-person payment plan is among the recommendations, along with tax credits for Black-owned businesses and homeownership grants.

The committee was created in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, and was tasked to develop a plan to address “the institutional, City sanctioned harm that has been inflicted upon African American communities.”

Since the committee has no power in implementing its recommendations, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will listen to its presentation and decide which proposals to accept, amend or reject. Several board members have doubts about the logistics of the lump-sum strategy, noting the financial impact and divisive optics.

Many critics say the idea of reparations makes little sense for a city that doesn’t have a history of slavery but it countered with the history of government policies and practices that worked to hold Black people from fully succeeding in the U.S.

An estimated 50,000 Black people live in San Francisco, though the number eligible for reparations under the draft proposal’s criteria is unknown. Under the draft, to be eligible for reparations San Francisco residents must be 18 years or older, have been identifying as Black or African American on public documents for at least 10 years, and meet two of eight additional criteria, which are subject to change.

The committee is also calling on local authorities to issue a formal apology to Black communities for past harm and establish an independent reparations office to execute the plan.

The committee’s final report is expected in June, but there remains no timeline for San Francisco to act on the proposed actions. During Tuesday’s hearing the board of supervisors could direct staff to continue their research, draft legislation or schedule more meetings.

San Francisco is among several cities and states across the country working to make amends for the crimes of this nation’s past.

Evanston, Illinois, became the first city and state to offer reparations to Black people in the form of home repair and property down payments in 2021. California has a task force exploring the idea of reparations in a broader sense and the Boston City Council approved a reparations study task force in December.