Landmark universal basic income scheme for trans community will ‘help people thrive’

San Francisco poised to give trans residents a universal basic income

The city of San Francisco is poised to give a universal basic income to low-income trans residents.

The pilot programme, part of a movement that is using a guaranteed income as a tool to fight poverty, would give cash directly to trans residents with no conditions attached. It follows a similar pilot in the city last year that saw San Francisco give a universal basic income to Black and Pacific Islander women during pregnancy.

Sand Francisco’s mayor, London Breed, included $2 million in her budget proposal for this year to fund the programme for the next two years. If the board of supervisors approves it, around 150 trans residents will receive monthly payments of up to $1,000 starting this autumn. If approved, a non-profit will be selected to identify and recruit applicants, prioritising Black and Latina trans women.

“Our transgender community suffered disproportionately during the pandemic, but we know that the inequities faced by trans people existed long before that,” Breed said in a statement.

“We heard from the community that this program was something that could offer real, needed support, and it’s one of a number of significant investments that we’re making in this budget to ensure that our trans community has the resources and the targeted programs that will help them thrive in San Francisco.”

During the pandemic, community groups like El/La Para TransLatinas and the Transgender District provided financial support to trans residents who lost their jobs.

Nicole Santamaria, head of El/La Para TransLatinas, said they directed financial support towards Latina trans people in the pandemic but that it was not enough long-term. Santamaria said that the pilot programme could be a way of making mutual aid efforts permanent, and said that the universal basic income model is “necessary to the survival of trans communities in the long run”.

“The Trans Latinx community has been left in the margins from different financial aid assistance in the past from different factors like immigration status among other reasons,” said Santamaria.

“We are hopeful that this year, with this proposal, [the] Trans Latina community will have access to apply and receive funds as individuals, but also as a nonprofit…who has been doing the work with very limited resources for years in a constant crisis.”

Aria Sa’id, executive director of the Transgender District, said that although the city’s pilot aims to prioritise Black and Latinx trans residents the work of those communities hasn’t been included into planning the programme.

“I’m excited that this is happening and I do think that this work should continue to be led by Black trans people and people most informed by the nuances of experience,” Sa’id said.

“I hope that the Office of Trans Initiatives and Mayor Breed bring more Black trans voices into the process because they traditionally have not. It’s work that we’ve been very visibly talking about.”