Palm Springs Tests Universal Income for Transgender, Binary Residents

The program to pay transgender and nonbinary people a basic income of $900 a month is facing considerable opposition

Beginning next year, Palm Springs will give some transgender and nonbinary residents a monthly payment as part of a guaranteed basic income pilot program. The Palm Beach City Council voted unanimously to provide $200,000 toward research and other startup costs for the project in a March 24 meeting.

The plan, administered by Palm Springs-based advocacy group DAP Health and Queer Works, has no stipulations regarding how recipients must spend the money but states that transgender and nonbinary residents are “particularly vulnerable” to unemployment, homelessness, assault and discrimination. The city has said that the program is only for people who meet a poverty threshold, Fox News reports.

The program will also seek state funding from the $35 million allocated in 2021 toward guaranteed income programs across California with an expected launch between October and February 2023, according to NBC Los Angeles.

Asked about the plan, Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton, who is transgender, directed Fox News to a transcript of the council’s March meeting where she “expressed strong reservations in general to guaranteed income programs.”

Middleton added in an email, “I specifically stated that I did not believe such programs could scale up to adequately respond to the over 37 million Americans living below the poverty line, the over 6 million Californians or the over 400,000 in the County of Riverside living below the poverty [line].”

The mayor emphasized that she believes universal basic income programs are a “county, state and federal responsibility” and not a “municipal” issue.

“My vote to affirm that evening was procedural to provide $200,000 to DAP in order to help them in the application for state funding,” Middleton wrote. “In advance of the vote I specifically stated my belief that guaranteed income programs were not the long-term way to proceed. I did not commit to any future funding of guaranteed income programs.”

At the meeting, the Los Angeles Times reports, Queer Works Chief Executive Jacob Rostovsky said the program would provide monthly payments of $600 to $900 to 20 participants who identify as transgender or nonbinary. Another 20 participants would serve as a control group and receive social services that are built into the program, but not the monthly payments.

“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,” Rostovsky, who is transgender, said.

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