A plan to test whether providing basic income for some area residents can help lift them out of poverty is taking a major step forward in mid-March.
With the backing of funds approved by the city in July 2022, a pair of Palm Springs-based nonprofits — Queer Works and DAP Health — will open applications for a universal basic income (UBI) program on March 15. Those who apply must be clients of one of the organizations, earn less than $16,600 per year, and live, work, or spend a majority of their day in the city.
“While both agencies provide clients with a comprehensive array of medical, behavioral health, and social services, these critically needed services alone are not adequate to empower these individuals to overcome poverty,” Jacob Rostovsky, Queer Works founder and CEO, said Monday. “Despite the supportive services they receive, some clients live in a state of overwhelming, debilitating, and unrelenting financial crisis.”
Among the most vulnerable clients, Rostovsky said, are members of the transgender and non-binary community, who are especially encouraged to apply.
“There are several subgroups within the DAP Health and Queer Works client populations that face higher levels of poverty than others due to societal prejudices, inequities, barriers, and life challenges,” he said. “It is important to note that this program is not exclusively for (that) community, but we are hoping to enroll a large number of the population.”
As designed, the program would provide $800 cash payments for 18 months to help 30 individuals on the path to economic security. While Palm Springs officials committed $500,000 to the pilot program last year, the nonprofits are seeking to secure part of the $35 million the state is committed to spending for guaranteed income pilot programs over the next five years.
UBI programs are not unique. Just prior to the Palm Springs City Council approving funds to assist in launching the program, the city of Coachella approved a program to provide 140 low-income immigrant families with a $400 monthly stipend for two years.
In Stockton, one of the first cities in the country to test out Universal Basic Income (UBI), the program was shown to help increase full-time employment. That flew in the face of a common misconception that recipients will stop working. Before the UBI program in Stockton started, 28% of recipients had full-time employment. One year later, 40% of recipients had full-time work.
Rostovsky said he has hopes for similar results here.
“In addition to assisting our low-income clients in the short-term, our hope is that this pilot will demonstrate proof of concept for the efficacy of the guaranteed income strategy,” he said. “Overall, our pilot could have significant benefits in terms of poverty reduction, economic stability, social justice, and individual autonomy, especially for the program participants who are transgender and non-binary.”
Details: For more information about the UBI pilot program, selection criteria, or how to apply, visit queerworks.org/ubi.