After more than two years of work, the Reparations Task Force of California is getting closer to submitting its final set of recommendations this summer. The task force, operating in the most populous state in the country, could implement the most significant reparations effort in the United States. In the lead-up to its final report, the task force has been growing bolder in its proposals while taking comments from Black Californians.

As it finalizes its recommendations, the California task force has begun a formal process of gathering community feedback with a two-day public forum in Sacramento. As community members took turns giving their opinions and recommendations, many of the attendees expressed skepticism that the reparations policies recommended by the task force would ever materialize. However, they still wanted to make their voices heard in the debate. 

“Everyone has their ideas about what should happen, how reparations should happen,” Rhoa Washington-Bey, who attended the hearing with her two young children, said. “Everyone won’t be happy. But it’s exciting that California is trying.”

One of the main policy areas for the task force is determining whether and how direct reparations payments would go to Californians impacted by the legacy of slavery and anti-Black racism. In 2022, the task force proposed that California could pay up to $569 billion in reparations, which was about $223,000 for each Black citizen in the state. Now, the task force is looking to increase that number. The new figure is $640 billion, equaling a $360,000 per person payout. However, this proposed figure is still preliminary and could change before submitting the final report.

One of the boldest proposals from the task force so far is the recommendation to create a new statewide governmental agency, the California American Freedmen Affairs Agency, inspired by the Freedmen’s Bureau, a federal government agency created after the Civil War to assist newly freed Black Americans during the period of Reconstruction. The task force initially proposed creating a similar agency for California in January, with CAFAA as an oversight body for whatever reparations policies the legislature passes. In March, the task force decided to give the freedmen affairs agency more power and passed a new proposal to put this new agency in charge of carrying out the policies. Task force Chair Kamilah Moore said CAFAA will exist “to provide perpetual special consideration to descendants of American slaves.” The new agency would also be able to intervene in the affairs of other parts of the state government, like the California Department of Justice, on issues that impact Black Californians. The CAFAA would also potentially be in charge of deciding who was eligible for reparations, which has been a source of contention for the task force.

The task force, created in 2020, has until July 1 to submit its final report to the California state legislature. The group meets again later in March and yet another time in May before submitting its final recommendations on June 30. A proposal in the state legislature would allow the task force to operate for an additional year as it advocates for its proposals.

With reparations movements gaining steam from various cities and even private organizations in multiple states, all eyes will be on California, which may set the stage for other reparations programs nationwide.