A man in the audience holds up a sign at the Reparations Task Force hearing at the March Fong Eu Secretary of State offices in Sacramento on June 29, 2023. Photo by Semantha Norris, CalMatters

(CALMATTERS) – The first substantive bill to come out of California’s reparations task force isn’t about money; it’s to create a new state agency, with a name that goes back to the first efforts to help freed slaves.

The proposed California American Freedman Affairs Agency would include more than a dozen offices, including one to help people determine if they’re eligible for reparation payments, says Sen. Steven Bradford, a task force member who announced the bill on Tuesday.

  • Bradford, a Democrat from Inglewood, in a statement: “My fellow task force members and I have documented the harm, detailed its generational impact, and determined the way forward to right these wrongs. The Freedman Affairs Agency will establish the instrumental infrastructure California will need as our state takes responsibility for the historical harms that have been committed.”

Creating the new agency is among the 200-plus recommendations of the first-in-the-nation task force, which in June submitted its 1,000-page report on how to address centuries of discrimination and outright racism faced by Black Californians, especially descendants of enslaved people. The task force also recommended that the state issue an official apology for its role in enabling slavery and that California pay cash compensation to descendants of slaves. 

According to economic models in the task force report, an eligible resident of seven decades could receive as much as $1.2 million. But any payments are many decisions away. And the to-be-amended bill for the new agency will not be taken up until next year.