After months of going back and forth, the Senate has finally approved the funding for the historic Pigford lawsuit, which will allocate $1.15 billion to Black farmers who faced discrimination at the hands of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
According to Associated Press, this is the second round of funding from a class-action lawsuit originally settled in 1999 over allegations of widespread discrimination by local agriculture department offices in awarding loans and other forms of aid. It is known as the Pigford case, named after Timothy Pigford, a Black farmer from North Carolina, who was an original plaintiff.
The federal government has already paid out more than $1 billion to about 16,000 farmers, with most getting payments of about $50,000. The new money is intended for people–some estimates say 70,000 or 80,000–who were denied earlier payments, because they missed deadlines for filing. The amount of money each would get depends on how many claims are successfully filed.
The Senate also cleared $3.4 billion to fund a separate settlement reached with the Department of Interior for their mishandling of a trust fund managed for Native Americans.
Earlier this year, the House of Representatives approved a bill that included money to pay for the settlements but the Senate failed to approve the measure. Sen. Tom Coburn, who cast the sole “no” vote the last time the bill was voted on, dropped his objection to its passage last week, after Senate leaders agreed not to finance the payments through additional deficit spending.
The House approved the new version of the bill Tuesday, and the bill, now goes to the desk of President Barack Obama, where he will be responsible for signing it into law.