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U.S. | Racial Justice

Class Counsel in Pigford II Black Farmers case may expect decision letters by August 2013
by John Zippert
Thursday Jul 18th, 2013 9:40 AM
Up to 1.25 billion dollars may be on the way to Black Farmers and Ranchers under the Pigford II settlement. The Pigford Claims Administrator in Portland Oregon will soon release decision letters, nationwide. Approved by Congress, successful claimants will receive the full damage payment of $50,000 and a payment to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of $12,500 on behalf of each successful claimant to cover his or her Federal income tax liability for the damage award. This is a total award of $62,500 for each successful 'late' and 'late-late' claimant.
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EPES, ALABAMA....In a telephone conference call last week with leaders of the Network of Black Farm Groups and Advocates, lead class counsel attorneys said farmers in the "In Re Black Farmers" case (better known as Pigford II) should receive decision letters by the first part of August or sooner.

Attorneys Hank Sanders of Selma, Alabama and Greg Francis of Orlando, Florida said on the call that the "neutrals", the judges who reviewed the claims, had made decisions on almost all of the 33,000 non-duplicate claims they received. The Claims Administrator in Portland, Oregon will be sending out decision letters by the beginning of next month or possibly sooner.

Sanders said that 17,800 of the Track "A" claimants had been successful and another 800 claims were still being reviewed to see if they were duplicates or multiple claims filed on the same farmland. The remaining claims were unsuccessful. Sanders said no Track "B" claims, for higher monetary damages, had been approved.

Because of the $1.25 billion dollars, approved by Congress to pay claims in the case, all of the Track "A" successful claimants will receive the full damage payment of $50,000. This includes both 'late' and 'late-late' filers. A payment will be made to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of $12,500 on behalf of each successful claimant to cover his or her Federal income tax liability for the damage award. This is a total award of $62,500 for each successful claimant.

For successful claimants seeking debt relief for loans from USDA agencies, their claims are also still under review to determine the specific amount of farm debt to be forgiven under the settlement.

Farmers will receive a letter in the next few weeks informing them if they have a favorable or unfavorable decision on their claims. Successful farmers will be given instructions on applying for their funds. Unsuccessful claimants will receive a checklist showing the reason(s) their claim was denied. These decisions are final and there will be no appeals.

Claimants filing on behalf of a deceased relative will have to go through the probate process to designate a family member as the "legal representative of the estate". This person will be eligible to apply for and receive the payment made out to the estate and distribute the proceeds to the other heirs after payment of expenses and taxes due on the estate.

Based on the data given by the lawyers, about 55% of the claimants in the Pigford II case whose claims were reviewed by the judges were successful in the case. This is slightly less than the 63% who prevailed in Pigford I after all appeals were completed.