Pilot program reportedly provides basic income to help San Francisco’s transgender community

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The movement to use guaranteed income as a tool to fight poverty gained traction in San Francisco this month, where The City is set to roll out a new pilot program to put money directly into the hands of people. low-income transgender residents.

These types of pilot programs, which provide unconditional benefits to help cover living costs, are commonly known as universal basic income. Similar efforts, targeting Black and Pacific Islander artists and pregnant women, have been underway since last fall.

San Francisco is now exploring a larger-scale permanent option.

Mayor London Breed has included in his budget proposal $ 2 million to fund the transgender specific program over the next two years. If approved by the supervisory board, up to 150 trans residents will receive monthly payments of up to $ 1,000 starting this fall.

“Our transgender community suffered disproportionately during the pandemic, but we know the inequalities facing trans people existed long before that,” Breed said in a statement. “The community has told us that this program is something that can provide real and needed support, and it is one of the many important investments we are making in this budget to ensure that our trans community has the resources and resources. targeted programs that will help them thrive in San Francisco.

At the onset of the pandemic, nonprofits like El / La Para TransLatinas and the Transgender District found that direct financial assistance was needed for community members who lost their jobs overnight.

The nonprofit focused on transgender Latinas distributed direct cash assistance in the form of monthly $ 100 Visa gift cards, while the Transgender District, a cultural district in the Tenderloin, borrowed the money. to send cash payments to 600 trans people across the country. Nicole Santamaria, executive director of El / La Para TransLatinas, acknowledged that this was not enough and sees a model like universal basic income “as necessary for the survival of trans communities in the long term”.

The pilot program can sustain these self-help efforts.

“The Trans Latinx community has been left out of various financial aids in the past due to different factors such as immigration status, among other reasons,” Santamaria said in an email. “We hope that this year, with this proposal, [the] The trans Latina community will have access to apply and receive funds as individuals, but also as a non-profit organization… which has been doing the job with very limited resources for years in constant crisis.

Santamaria added that she was happy to hear about “good intentions” and hoped to work closely on efforts to ensure fairness.

The news also surprised Aria Sa’id, executive director of the Transgender District, who advocated for a guaranteed monthly income for trans people. The pilot project is intended to prioritize trans black and Latin residents, but Sa’id believes that the work of these communities has not been recognized or integrated into the city’s effort.

“I am thrilled that this is happening and I think this work should continue to be led by black trans people and people most informed by the nuances of the experience,” Sa’id said. “I hope the Office of Trans Initiatives and Mayor Breed bring more trans black voices into the process, as they haven’t traditionally done so. It is a job that we have talked about very clearly.

If it depended on the district, Sa’id said they would hold a series of focus groups to find the best methods of disbursing funds – and urgently, so people don’t wait for bureaucracy for this lifeline. rescue.

“My dream is to take a fire truck with millions of dollars in cash and have a wind blower and say, ‘Wait’,” Sa’id added.

The program reached Breed’s office after the Transgender Advisory Board – led by Clair Farley, executive director of the Office of Transgender Initiatives and Breed’s advisor on LGBT issues – recommended it this year. She said she was grateful for the transgender district’s work and hopes they will get involved.

Once approved, the mayor’s office for housing and community development will select a nonprofit organization to identify and recruit candidates with a focus on black and Latin trans women, Farley said. Unlike the existing guaranteed income pilot projects, the treasurer’s office will make the payments in addition to providing financial coaching and other services.

“Part of the challenge is that so many communities, especially communities of color, haven’t been connected to these safety nets,” Farley said. “These specific, highly tailored programs that will reach out to the trans community will strengthen that confidence. This is just another example of a pilot project that is really working towards a guaranteed income that we are seeing popping up across the country.

Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents South of Market and the Net, said he strongly supports the initiative and predicts the rest of the board will feel the same.

“Direct cash assistance can be a very effective program, especially for vulnerable groups,” Haney said. “This can be a vital tool in helping us end poverty in San Francisco and eliminate the massive economic inequalities that many of our residents face. But we have to learn from it, do it the right way and make it sustainable. “

The Guaranteed Income Advisory Group is already taking note.

Amanda Kahn Fried, spokesperson for the treasurer’s office that manages the group, said the existing pilots are helping to see how the model is being implemented. By the end of the year, the group will submit a report to the Supervisory Board.

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