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Denver Mayor Michael Hancock speaks at a Black Lives Matter rally last June. Photo: Jason Connolly/AFP via Getty Images

Reparations for slavery could be coming to Black residents in Denver in the form of a new pilot program.

Driving the news: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock is co-leading a group of 10 other U.S. mayors who have pledged to pay restitution to a small group of Black people in their cities to counteract historic and continued discrimination of African Americans in America.

Why it matters: The program is intended to be a model for the federal government and demonstrate "how the country can more quickly move from conversation to action," according to the group's website.

  • If successful and applied nationwide, proponents say the program could help address the country's staggering racial wealth gap that has left Black families with a U.S. median wealth of $24,100, compared with $188,200 for white families, according to the Federal Reserve's 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances.

How it works: Mayors in the group — from Los Angeles to Providence, Rhode Island — will each form an advisory committee of local, Black-led organizations to advise on the city's reparations strategy, including how to fund the pilot programs.

  • The programs will be implemented once funding is identified, with the expectation that they will "vary in style and scope."
  • Plus: Group members commit to supporting federal bill H.R. 40, which seeks to establish a commission to "examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies."

Zoom in: In Denver, the program won't be developed in time to make the 2022 budget, Hancock's spokesperson Mike Strott told Axios.

  • The mayor's office did not have details about how much the program would cost, how it would be paid for or how Black residents would be selected. Hancock will be working with the group's co-leader, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, as well as other mayoral offices to determine next steps.
  • In the meantime, Hancock's spokesperson said the mayor's office would "welcome feedback" from the community.

What they're saying: The mayor's commitment is significant because it helps build a "culture of repair," said Harold Fields, the leader of the Denver Black Reparations Council, who's been working to progress reparations in the city for 23 years.

  • "The truth is that the feds won't do things unless they get pressure from the grassroots, and (cities) are laboratory examples of what can be done to make this happen," he told Axios.

Yes, but: The mayors acknowledge their pilot programs will be a drop in the bucket when it comes to the estimated $12 trillion in federal spending needed to bridge the nation's wealth gap.

The big picture: Organized efforts to pay reparations are gaining traction in cities across the country, from Asheville, North Carolina and Detroit to San Francisco and Evanston, Illinois.

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Go deeper

Updated Sep 14, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on post-pandemic recovery for Black-businesses

On Tuesday, September 14, Axios markets reporter Courtenay Brown and business reporter Hope King discussed the economic recovery of Black-owned small businesses, featuring Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) and U.S. Black Chambers President & CEO Ron Busby. 

Rep. Joyce Beatty addressed how the Congressional Black Caucus and Congress are working together to help Black-owned businesses in a post-pandemic era, the primary challenges that the Black-owned business community endured during the pandemic, and how unemployment rates among Black communities vary across the nation. 

  • On government efforts to provide financial relief to small businesses: “When we think about the value of the Congressional Black Caucus and how we had to work with them, many of us small business owners, I know firsthand as a former small business owner how hard it is to make payroll in a normal time. Here’s the good news: 95% of the Biden-approved PPP loans went to small businesses with 20 or less employees, and that was very helpful.” 
  • On consistently disparate unemployment rates in Black communities: “When we hear, 'Oh, unemployment has gone down and people are working,' well, those numbers were never the same for minority-owned businesses, especially Black-owned businesses. The numbers were always double, and we’re still dealing with that.” 

Ron Busby illustrated the progress of Black small businesses in post-pandemic recovery, how efforts from Federal entities and the private sector have assisted in that recovery, and what types of aid he believes are most essential in helping Black-owned small businesses thrive. 

  • On the current state of recovery for Black-owned businesses: “Businesses that are owned by African-Americans and Black people across the country are starting to feel extremely optimistic about the future, but the challenges still exist. The number one challenge for Black-owned businesses is obviously access to capital.” 
  • On adjusting government-run initiatives to better serve Black communities: “We had to go back and make sure that we adjusted those packages, those stimulus opportunities, to make sure that our Black businesses could participate. As you see new programs being rolled out, you’ll see that the US Black Chamber is there to make sure that small, diverse, and primarily Black firms are included in the conversation, as well as being included in the stimulus packages.”  

Axios SVP of Events & Creative Strategy Kristin Burkhalter hosted a View from the Top Segment with Facebook’s Vice President of Business Engineering and Partner Solutions, Alvin Bowles, who discussed how Facebook is supporting Black-owned businesses through various digital exposure initiatives. 

  • “It’s just important to note that individuals are trying to leverage the digital economy to be able to actually decrease that distance between innovation and execution, and trying to figure out the best way to be able to leverage opportunities to have individuals discover their businesses. We feel like there’s an enormous responsibility that we have. As we head into this holiday season, it’s now more important than ever to really focus on the discovery economy and that every good idea deserves to be found.”  

Thank you Facebook for sponsoring this event. 

Sep 16, 2021 - Axios Tampa Bay

Ken Welch picks up another big endorsement

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announces her endorsement of Ken Welch for St. Pete Mayor in downtown Tampa. Photo courtesy of the Welch campaign

Democrat Ken Welch is catching endorsements like Pokémon.

The latest: Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced Welch as her pick for St. Petersburg mayor Wednesday morning in downtown Tampa.

  • Earlier this week, Welch was backed by U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, state Sen. Janet Cruz and the Suncoast Sierra Club, per Florida Politics.
Updated 3 hours ago - Science

Huge wildfire reaches edge of Sequoia National Park

A plume of smoke and flames rise into the air as the fire burns towards Moro Rock during the KNP Complex fire in the Sequoia National Park near Three Rivers, California, on Saturday. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in Sequoia National Park were working into the night after two wildfires merged to reach the Giant Forest Saturday.

Why it matters: This forest contains over 2,000 giant sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree — the world's largest tree by volume. Park officials wrapped the redwoods in foil last week as the Paradise and Colony Fires, now known as the KNP Complex Fire, neared. Protection efforts appeared to be working overnight.