President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed legislation that allocates $4.6 billion to settle discrimination claims made by black farmers and allegations that the government cheated American Indians out of land-use royalties.
The measure settles a lawsuit by black farmers who alleged racial discrimination in U.S. Department of Agriculture lending programs, and a separate legal action by 300,000 American Indians who said they were cheated out of land royalties dating to 1887.
The measure “closes a long and unfortunate chapter in our history,” Obama said at a signing ceremony for the legislation in Washington. “It’s finally time to make things right.”
As many as 66,000 black farmers who filed claims by June 2008 will be eligible for the $1.15 billion settlement of their lawsuit. Qualified claimants could collect as much as $50,000, plus debt relief. The settlement also provided monetary damages of as much as $250,000.