San Francisco could become the first major US city to fund reparations, under a plan that would award $5m to each eligible black resident.
A city-appointed panel also suggests guaranteed annual incomes of $97,000 for qualifying recipients and homes in San Francisco for $1 a family.
The city’s Board of Supervisors has begun considering the recommendations. Supporters say it would be just compensation to black Americans for the legacy of slavery and racism. Opponents say the price tag is too high.
The San Francisco board enthusiastically welcomed the proposals at Tuesday’s first hearing, according to the Associated Press news agency.
The committee’s draft proposal, first released in December, outlines more than 100 suggestions. It is widely viewed as the most detailed policy effort yet in the US on the controversial issue of reparations.
Supporters of the plan say it is needed to redress the legacy of US slavery and racist policies, which they argue have disproportionately harmed black Americans in terms of poverty, poor health, incarceration and economic status.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the reparations committee chairman Eric McDonnell said: “When you consider all of the ways in which the systems and practices have been managed to exclude and steal, if you will, the opportunities for financial mobility – families are hurting and have been for decades, if not longer.
“Financial repair is time sensitive. That is not one that can or should wait.”
But critics, who include political liberals in the city, have labelled it a financial and political nightmare.
They argue that Californians who were never slave owners should not have to give money to people who were not enslaved. Some have also argued it would be difficult to fund such a proposition amid a tech industry downturn in Silicon Valley, for which San Francisco is the main hub.
A proper analysis of the cost of the proposals has yet to be completed by the committee. The panel’s final report is expected to be released in June. Then it will be up to lawmakers in the state legislature to draft any actual measure and decide whether to vote to pass it.
The reparations debate has gained momentum in the US in recent years, particularly after the nationwide racial justice movement of 2020. That year, California became the first state to form a reparations task force. Since then Boston City Council has also approved a reparations task force.
In 2021, Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, approved reparations for some residents, including money for home repairs, down payments and interest or late penalties due on property.
One of the difficulties being discussed in San Francisco is how to determine who qualifies. About 50,000 black people live in San Francisco, but it’s not clear how many would be eligible.
Qualifying criteria under the plan include that a person would need to be at least 18 years old and have identified as black or African American in public documents for at least a decade.