City proposes “guaranteed income” program for transgender, nonbinary residents to combat “discrimination” against them

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PALM SPRINGS, CA — The Palm Springs City Council recently voted to allocate $200,000 from two local nonprofits to begin a payment program exclusively for its transgender and nonbinary residents.

City Council members voted unanimously on March 24 to pay DAP Health and Queer Works to design the program and apply for state funding, which is the first of three phases outlined in a city report to realize the proposed project, according to a report by BPR.

Queer Works is a Coachella Valley-based nonprofit aimed primarily at addressing disparities faced by transgender, nonbinary and intersex people while DAP Health is a nonprofit resource in the valley for those with, affected by or at risk for HIV or AIDS, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

Jacob Rostovsky, Queer Works’ transgender executive director, told Newsweek it is expected that the program will be similar to guaranteed income pilot programs launched in other U.S. cities.

Rostovsky said other cities that have experimented with guaranteed income on average have given 150 people monthly payments of $600 to $900:

“This is a chance to help individuals receive money that we can think of as a subsidy — to subsidize the gap in income that the trans and nonbinary community faces due to having some of the highest levels of unemployment in this country.

“So, when you raise them up to the average level, they achieve a lot more.”

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Rostovsky told the Los Angeles Times that Queer Works has been “highly encouraged” to apply for a piece of California’s $35 million in funding for guaranteed income pilot programs.

The state’s plan, approved last year, targets pregnant women and young adults who have aged out of the foster care system, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Rostovsky noted that 5 percent of foster youth identify as transgender.

Newsweek reported:

“The two nonprofits will look for philanthropic dollars to fund the program. Additionally, they’ll look at ways to tap into a $35 million fund created by California lawmakers to provide monthly payments to pregnant women and young adults who’ve recently left foster care.

“The new pot of money would be distributed by local governments and nonprofits.

“The idea of no-strings cash payments has increasingly taken hold in the U.S. Presidential candidate Andrew Yang made it the centerpiece of his campaign, most Americans were given direct cash payments during the height of the pandemic and a group called Mayors for a Guaranteed Income is evaluating other local pilot programs.”

A 2019 study by the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute suggested that poverty rates differ by sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI):

“We examined poverty rates separately for cisgender straight men and women, cisgender gay men and lesbian women, cisgender bisexual men and women, and transgender people.

  • “LGBT people collectively have a poverty rate of 21.6%, which is much higher than the rate for cisgender straight people of 15.7%.
  • “Among LGBT people, transgender people have especially high rates of poverty—29.4%.
  • “Lesbian (17.9%) and straight (17.8%) cisgender women have higher poverty rates than gay (12.1%) and straight (13.4%) cisgender men. But cisgender lesbian women do not have significantly different poverty rates than cisgender straight women.
  • “Bisexual cisgender women (29.4%) and men (19.5%) had higher poverty rates than cisgender straight women and men, respectively.”

The study noted that U.S. poverty is determined based on whether the income for an individual or family unit falls below the official federal poverty threshold:

“The thresholds are set each year for different sizes of households. In 2015, for example, a family of two adults and one child would be considered living in poverty if their annual income fell below $19,078.”

Newsweek reported that Palm Springs Council Member Christy Holstege, who was the previous mayor, said during Thursday’s council meeting:

“This is a complete revisiting of how we address poverty in this country by giving people money.”

Holstege claimed that restrictions on other government anti-poverty programs end up trapping their recipients, but a guaranteed income can allow people to spend money on “other solutions that we all know as being the experts of our lives.”

Los Angeles Times reported:

“Councilmember Christy Holstege, who brought the matter to the meeting, said Monday that she felt ‘incredibly proud’ of the city for coming down on ‘the right side of history and supporting our trans and nonbinary, gender-nonconforming community.’

“Like other guaranteed income programs, the pilot would provide direct cash payments to individuals to spend as they see fit. That sets it apart from some financial assistance programs that come with work requirements or specify how the money can be spent.”

Proponents say these types of programs promote physical and psychological well-being by giving some of society’s most marginalized groups a financial life vest.

However, Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton, who is transgender, cast doubt on the viability of guaranteed income programs and questioned if they should even be run by municipal governments.

KESQ News reported that Mayor Middleton was worried about the small scale of the project despite 400,000 people living below the poverty line in Riverside County.

Before ultimately voting in favor of the program, Middleton said:

“My serious concern is the ability of these guaranteed income programs to scale up to the magnitude of the issues that are before us.”

Palm Springs Council Member Greg Kors suggested the program was a worthy money redistribution experiment:

“But it would be money that may be much more effectively spent than it’s being spent now and that’s what this is trying to find out.”

Los Angeles Times reported:

“At this point, the pilot program still needs more funding to fully launch.

“When reached Monday, Rostovsky said some of the details concerning the program discussed at the recent council meeting — including a total reported budget of $1.8 million — were preliminary figures.

“Besides state funding, the partnership seeks philanthropic support and could come back to the city to ask for more money — which several council members said they might not be willing to allot.

“Over the next three to six months, Rostovsky said the partnership will work on putting together an application, seek input from local transgender and nonbinary leaders and conduct outreach.”

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