A Democratic senator in Portland, Lew Frederick, is proposing Oregon pay its Black residents an annual annuity of $123,000 as reparation benefits to curtail the racial disparities in the Pacific Northwestern state.
Speaking to KTVZ, Frederick said he has sponsored two bills – Senate Bill 618 ad Senate Bill 619 – for the state’s 2021 legislative session which started on January 19. The bills, according to Frederick, outline how the program will be implemented and the criteria applicants must meet in order to be able to qualify as a beneficiary.
The senator justified the relevance of the bill by citing some of the historical disparities among the state’s Black population. “When you look around Bend, I would encourage you to take a look at a couple of the older land covenants, and you will probably find that the land covenants say that (if you are) non-white, you can not own land in certain sections of Bend,” he said.
Frederick further explained: “(Senate Bill) 618 really says is there a case to be made for reparations — that’s what 618 does,” while “(Senate Bill) 619 says if there is a case to made, how will that be done.”
Per the Senate Bill 619, Black Oregonians who may wish to apply must prove they are descendants of an American slave and should have resided in the state for at least two years. Additionally, the applicant should have also “identified as African-American on legal documents for at least 10 years.”
“The Department of Revenue shall establish a program to pay reparations to Black Oregonians who can demonstrate heritage in slavery and who submit an application to the department no later than December 31, 2022,” the bill explained.
“The department shall pay to each eligible applicant the amount of $123,000 in the form of an annuity payable annually for the life of the applicant.”
The funds, according to the bill, are also exempt from garnishment and all state, county and municipal taxation. Frederick, however, clarified the details of the bill are open to further modification.
“Part of governing, part of being in a situation like this is that you bring up issues, then you discover how you could resolve those issues,” he told KTVZ.
Riccardo Waites, founder of the Central Oregon Black Leaders Assembly, however, told the news outlet he’s doubtful the bill will see the light of day and also highlighted the challenges pertaining to applicants proving their eligibility.
“Who’s going to have evidence of their slave history?” Waites said. “Our history has been erased, so who’s going to have that knowledge?”
In September last year, California became the first state to explore the possibility of paying reparations to its Black residents as well as descendants of slaves after Governor Gavin Newsom signed the proposed bill.
Written by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, the new law commissioned a nine-member task force to look into the effects slavery had on Black Californians and propose a compensation package to the state Legislature, according to NBC News. The team will also determine eligible recipients and the form the compensation will take.