California is home to 15,000 to 20,000 Holocaust survivors, the second-largest such population in the United States. An estimated 6,000 to 8,000 Californians receive reparation or restitution payments. For example, about 1,040 now receive monthly pension benefits that average $350 from the German government. About 40 percent of those who receive reparation or restitution payments live in poverty, according to officials at Bet Tzedek Legal Services, a Los Angeles-based non-profit, nonsectarian law firm that serves the poor, elderly and disabled without regard to race or religion. The transfer or wire fee charged by financial institutions to process these payments can range from $10 to $40. That can be a significant burden on recipients, the vast majority of whom are elderly. Today, the average age of a Holocaust survivor exceeds 75, and the survivors are dying at a rate of approximately 10 percent a year.
In July 2003, then-Treasurer Phil Angelides asked the chief executive officers of each of the financial institutions that do business with the State and/or have been identified by Bet Tzedek as processing reparation payments to sign a commitment pledge to voluntarily waive any wire transfer or processing fees associated with Holocaust reparations or restitution.