Council gives initial backing to organizations working to bring guaranteed income pilot project to city

The Palm Springs City Council voted unanimously Thursday to provide $200,000 to a pair of organizations working in tandem on a project aimed at helping transgender and non-binary community members. It stopped short of committing any additional funding.

The money is needed to help Queer Works and DAP Health pursue state funds for a pilot program that would guarantee income of up to $900 a month for 20 people who identify as transgender or non-binary. The initiative is part of a broader effort by Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. It comes at a time the state is providing $35 million in funding for guaranteed income pilot programs over the next five years.

While backing $200,000 to help during the application process and commending both organizations for their work, Council members did not commit to what could be an additional $1.2 million should the state select the Palm Springs project to receive the funds needed to move forward.

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“The case for how compelling the need is is absolutely real,” said Mayor Lisa Middleton as she addressed the larger issue of guaranteed income and the city’s involvement in any such program. “…What lifts people out of poverty is a job that pays a living wage, that is secure. We’re not producing those jobs, and we need to. For every individual we address through these programs, dozens more are not getting aid through these programs.”

Councilmember Christy Holstege, who brought the proposal to the Council with backing from Mayor Pro Tem Grace Garner and Councilmember Geoff Kors, said the city is merely committing funds to the organizations, not for a municipally-run guaranteed income program.

“The city is not being asked to design this program,” said Holstege. “We are just being asked to be the funder. That has always been our municipal role — to get services to our community.”

Jacob Rostovsky, founder and CEO of Queer Works and a member of the transgender community, said the people who would benefit from the program are among the most vulnerable in the city. He said he knows transgender and non-binary people in Palm Springs who have been forced to choose between gender-affirming medical care and mental health services or eating.

“We’re a major focus in this country right now,” he said. “Just look at all the states trying to pass laws that harm individuals like myself.”

If and when the state awards program participation to the Palm Springs organizations, Rostovsky said participants would be chosen randomly by a third party. Twenty would receive monthly income and supportive services for an unknown period, possibly up to a year, and 20 would be in a control group with just the supportive services. Mayors for a Guaranteed Income hopes to use data from pilot programs to determine what future, permanent programs might look like.

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