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Palm Springs looks to create a universal basic income pilot for trans residents

The California city of Palm Springs has taken the first step in developing a universal basic income program for transgender and nonbinary residents.
Elise Amendola
The California city of Palm Springs has taken the first step in developing a universal basic income program for transgender and nonbinary residents.

The Palm Springs City Council has approved funding for two local organizations to develop a universal basic income program for the California city's transgender and nonbinary residents.

The city council unanimously approved allocating $200,000 for DAP Health and Queer Works in late March. But this was just the first step to develop the program, which would provide a regular no-strings-attached stipend.

The two organizations are now in the works to design the pilot program. They aim to apply for a piece of $35 million in state funding — set aside for universal basic income programs — sometime later this year.

The work to develop this program comes as conservative legislatures across the U.S. implement laws targeting transgender people.

The transgender and nonbinary community faces unique financial, mental and physical hardships, Palm Springs Councilmember Christy Holstege told NPR. She brought the proposal to the council for consideration.

According to a study by UCLA's Williams Institute, "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 individuals, transgender people have an especially high poverty rate of 29.4%.

Jacob Rostovsky, the founder and executive director of Queer Works, who is working with DAP Health to develop the Palm Springs program, says the transgender community also faces higher levels of unemployment and job discrimination, as well as additional health issues.

"Having that unrestricted cash flow is really important, not only for trans and nonbinary individuals, but for everyone," Rostovsky told NPR.

Social service programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program limit what individuals and families can buy with those benefits.

With unrestricted funds, anyone can repair their car or address health problems as they see fit, he says. Having that freedom of cash is especially important for trans individuals, who have unique needs, Rostovsky says.

"When you look at the trans community, we have to decide if we eat, have safe housing or receive medical treatment, or, for us, gender-affirming care," he says. With funds from a universal basic income program, "you don't have to think about choosing anymore. You can have the freedom to address all of your needs."

These plans have faced criticism from people opposed to this idea.

While DAP Health and Queer Works plan to prioritize the transgender and nonbinary community with the program, Rostovsky says they do plan to bring into their plan other groups of people who could use financial help.

"We are trying to be as well-rounded as possible," he says.

The idea of a universal basic income has taken off in recent years after former Stockton, Calif., Mayor Michael Tubbs launched such a program in his city in 2019. Tubbs founded the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income in June 2020, and since then similar programs have cropped up across the country.

Such programs specifically targeting LGBTQ people are rarer.

The California city of West Hollywood recently launched its own pilot program that provides cash assistance to low-income residents over age 50 who identify as LGBTQIA.

San Franciscoconsidered developing its own program for trans residents last year.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jaclyn Diaz
Jaclyn Diaz is a reporter on Newshub.